An elderly widow is crying shame on the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), after her survivors’ benefits were discontinued over what she claims is a rumour.
She told Barbados TODAY the organisation, which boasts of being “the lifeline” of citizens was making her life extremely difficult over the past six months, by failing to provide benefits totalling nearly $4,000.
Metrice Hinds, a 61-year-old fish vendor at the Bridgetown Fisheries Complex has been collecting monthly survivors’ benefits of $647 ever since June 2014, when Andrew Walcott, her husband of 31 years, passed away.
To her amazement, she received no money at the end of January or February this year and when she contacted the NIS to inquire about the issue, Hinds was told: “somebody called in and told us that you’ve been remarried”.
The St Vincent-born said she felt confused, hurt and disrespected, demanding to know why NIS officials never formally contacted her before cutting her benefits.
“[A customer service official] asked me to bring my documents, which I did. She didn’t even carry me in the office, but left me for over two hours outside waiting.
“I went to them over five times since then and they kept telling me they have to call St Vincent and get official word, but they aren’t getting a reply yet,” she explained.
Hinds said her business at the fish market had slowed down tremendously over the last month, forcing her to sell cigarettes and bottles of homemade seasoning at the market.
Declaring the situation had become “too much” for her to handle, Hinds said she went to the NIS’ Culloden Road headquarters on Monday during customer appreciation day and spoke to a well known senior customer service official.
“He asked me if I ever remarried and I said ‘No sir, I have not remarried. You all have stopped my money and I didn’t even get a letter notifying me or asking me if I was remarried or not.’” she told the official.
She claims the official has since continuously told her he had called St Vincent, but was waiting to get a response and informed her she would have to wait.
“He keeps turning me around and I don’t like it. He knows it is wrong. The same week my husband died, two cheques came home for him and I did not open them because I knew he was dead and I couldn’t change that. It belonged to them and I took it back to them and I ain’t open it and that same day, they introduced me to survivors’ benefits,” she said.
But after waiting six months, Holder declared: “you had all the time in the world and they just want to take away my rights from me. They owe me a lot of money and I am here suffering. The fish is done and I am done. I am not working anywhere else.
“This is outstanding money and I think I should get my money but there is no proof. You mean to tell me that after six months they can’t get proof to determine whether I am remarried or not?
“I can’t pay my bills. I scarcely could buy groceries for myself. My water bill is up to $4,000 and I can’t get it paid because there is nothing to pay it with,” said the woman in desperation.
According to the NIS’ website, survivors’ benefits entitle the surviving spouse of an insured person, who was receiving or eligible for invalidity or Old Age Contributory Benefit to half of the benefit their deceased spouse would have received if he/she were alive.
Barbados TODAY reached out to the senior NIS official, who indicated “the marketing and communications” would be best positioned to respond to such issues.
Marketing and Research officer, Katrina Benn would only say: “The matter is under investigation.”
Meanwhile, the upset widow remains adamant she has never been remarried or intends to be remarried.
“If I had remarried I would not have taken this so far, because every cent they paid me, I would have to pay them back. They have got to give me my money because it is mine, not theirs,” she said.