Monday, February 09, 2009

Kasilof Resident Carole Okamoto Wants Her Deceased Husband's 2009 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend Even Though He Died In 2008

When Kasilof resident Carole Okamoto contacted the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend division with questions concerning the PFD application process on behalf of her late husband, she was asked a series of questions one would expect:

Did the applicant receive the 2008 dividend? Yes.

During 2008 was the applicant gone from Alaska more than 90 days total? No.

Did the applicant die during the period beginning January 1, 2009, and ending at midnight March 31, 2009?


Okamoto wondered why the date of her husband's death mattered. What she discovered was that because her husband, Bob, died on November 8th, 2008, he was not eligible to apply for a 2009 PFD check, which is paid to Alaska residents for the 2008 calendar year. Identical stories published in the Peninsula Clarion and the Anchorage Daily News, but the comments appended to each story are quite telling, and respectfully disagree with her claim.

Okamoto contacted Rep. Mike Chenault's office, looking for assistance and an explanation of the law. Chenault's office then contacted Deborah Bitney, the director of the permanent fund dividend division, and explained the situation. Bitney responded with one line: "A person who dies during 2008 does not qualify for a 2009 dividend." In an interview Friday, Bitney said in order to apply for the PFD Bob would have had to have been alive at some point during 2009. She said a person has to be a resident of Alaska the entire year of 2008 to qualify. The formal eligibility guidelines published HERE do not spell this out, possibly because it would seem so obvious.

Bitney further explained that if a person dies during the application process then a family member can apply for them on their behalf, but if a person dies during the qualifying year, 2008 in this case, they are not eligible to apply. She also said the PFD division doesn't have the authority to change the laws surrounding the application process and that any changes would have to come from the Legislature. Senator Tom Wagoner (R-Kenai) is also reportedly looking into the situation.

Another Kasilof resident, Rose Renner, is in the same situation. Renner's father died November 14th, 2008, and like Okamoto, the PFD office told Renner her father did not qualify to apply for the 2009 dividend. So at least the bureaucrats are consistent.

Both Okamoto and Renner are understandably emotional about this issue. They talk in terms of how this decision "invalidates" their late husbands' lives. While some might consider this typical "Oprah talk", the widows are still grieving and that should be taken into consideration.

But the rules are clear. Case in point: Would Okamoto be allowed to continue collecting her dead husband's Social Security checks? No, although she'd get a one-time death benefit. And if her husband was a military retiree, would she be allowed to continue collecting his retirement checks? Again, the answer is No. So the PFD rules are categorically consistent with this thinking. Compassion needs to be balanced with logic.

And the vast majority of public commenters agree with this. Some typical comments from the Clarion:

Posted by: marbles35 at Feb. 8, 2009 at 3:06:44 pm
I dont mean to be a heartless or unfeeling person - I totally offer my condolences on your loss. However The PFD has to have some sort of rules, regulations and so forth.With so many people taking advantage of technicalities and receiving PFD money when they arent entitled to it - it just makes the others suffer.

Posted by: Elizabeth at Feb. 8, 2009 at 3:11:25 pm
I'm sort of bewildered at this story. My understanding of death is once it happens, it's done, it's over. Why would the State of Alaska pay a dividend to someone who no longer exists? Isn't a single dividend check for a single person and not an estate or a whole family? I am sorry for the loss of Ms Okamoto's husband but to say "It negated his whole life that year" or "It was rather surprising that they don't support Alaskans throughout the whole year, to invalidate a life is so sad", makes me feel sad that she wouldn't think that her late husband was worth anything other than an Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend qualifier. Why would one want to make this time of their life harder than what it already is by complaining about something as trivial as whether she will get his check or not? He isn't here to receive it, bottom line. Seek something healthier in your life. A lousy check for $1000 bucks once a year is not what should make you happy.

And from the Anchorage Daily News:

redmoose wrote on 02/09/2009 00:05:32 AM:
Carole, I am sorry to read of your loss, and I know this must have been frustrating to learn. My son passed away on November 19th in 2005, just 41 days before the end of that year. He did not qualify for a dividend check, either, and I never thought of calling my representative to complain. The money would certainly have been nice to help settle some of his final expenses, but the law is clear. If you die one minute before midnight your survivors have no right to a dividend check you ALMOST earned. Now if you go sometime early on the morning of the 1st of January, that might be different. Sorry.

Cama1 wrote on 02/08/2009 11:18:36 PM:
You're kidding...right? They're deceased. THEY DON'T GET A CHECK. Of course, if there is a reason for the heirs to get a check...wouldn't that pose a different ethical/legal issue? I know if someone collects their deceased parent's Social Security check past that parent's expiration date, that's fraud. Why is the PFD any different? Common sense...greed.

mchristopher7 wrote on 02/08/2009 11:18:06 PM:
Duh, it's his PFD (not hers), & he's dead. Is she nuts or what?

oleruns wrote on 02/08/2009 10:45:51 PM:
I am sorry for your loss. I would suggest you don't file for his PFD as you could bring more trouble for yourself later. Maybe you can get it changed but I don't see how for last year. All you can hope to do at this point is help others later by getting the law changed...

juliana_smith_44 wrote on 02/08/2009 10:32:00 PM:
Did the applicant die during the period beginning January 1, 2009, and ending at midnight March 31, 2009?(An "live applicant" has to be alive to apply his/her signature. Maybe, Carole Okamoto doesn't know she is not to forge her dead husband's signature)

waynebvs wrote on 02/08/2009 10:28:09 PM:
The PFD checks are issued to each individual who has qualified for that years' (last) check. The man died in 2008 and his widow wants to collect his PFD for 2009? Sorry, that train has left the station.

Tough break, but I don't foresee the rules being changed to accomodate this type of situation.

1 comment:

  1. All of Alaskans are so greedy. They should stop giving away free money to all of them!