David F.

I worked as a pharmacist at Hospital Center at Orange (HCO) for 25 years.  I began as a pharmacy student and continued as a staff pharmacist when I became licensed later that year.  I was later promoted to Senior Pharmacist with additional supervisory responsibilities.  I thought I would work my whole career at HCO, but that ended with the closing of the hospital in 2004. Many of my co-workers also had worked for many years at the hospital and we were very loyal employees.  When we didn’t receive raises because of the hard economic times faced by the hospital, we accepted it.  When our pension was frozen in December 1995 and then again in October 1999, we accepted it.  Hospital Center at Orange was our hospital and we needed to help it through these difficult times. When I started working at HCO, I knew that I would never be rich but that I could count on job security and that I would have a pension when I retired.  In my twenties, retirement was far away and I felt confident having a pension.  In my mid-thirties, I realized a pension and social security alone would not sustain me in retirement and I started saving additional monies for retirement.  I had young children and a mortgage and my contributions were small.  They increased slowly through my years at HCO.  However, I had confidence in my HCO pension.  Had I known that it would later be in peril, I would have found a way to save more for retirement. I was shocked when I learned in July 2003 that the Hospital Center at Orange might close and that our retirement plan had been changed to a church plan and was no longer covered by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. I also was told at the time that the pension was significantly under funded.   That Cathedral Healthcare System had betrayed us was bad enough, but that the Internal Revenue Service had allowed this rocked my belief that the government was there to protect its citizens. After HCO closed, I got a new job in another hospital and I hope to work there until I retire.  I have worked hard to increase my retirement savings but am nowhere near the amounts that I will need.  When I left HCO, I concluded that since my pension would probably have vanished by age 65, I would start collecting as soon as I was eligible at age 55.  My plans were reinforced when I read the Wall Street Journal of June 5, 2010 entitled “IRS Nears Action on Church Pensions.”  In the article, I learned that the HCO pension was now 30%-funded and expected to run out of money in three years.  When I turned 55, I started collecting a much reduced pension. My back-up plan to replace my pension in retirement was that I would work forever.  However, now I realize that is not an option for everyone.  Last month, I was diagnosed with coronary artery disease and had a quadruple bypass.  I will return to work in a few weeks, but am no longer confident that working forever is an option. Employers must be held responsible for pensions that are promised and the Internal Revenue Service must protect individuals from employers who turn their back on their responsibilities.