AUGUSTA — An Augusta woman hoping to convince the state to honor her late husband’s life insurance policy has suffered a setback in that effort.

Jennifer Neumeyer said an attorney friend who had offered her free legal advice during her battle with the state’s retirement system moved out of state just a couple weeks before a hearing with insurance officials.

“I’m just kind of at a standstill right now,” said the 43-year-old Neumeyer.

Her husband, Scott Neumeyer, was just 35 in December when he died of pancreatic cancer. Jennifer Neumeyer learned shortly after her husband’s death that his life insurance had been canceled in 2011 when the Neumeyers’ missed a payment while Scott was out on extended sick leave.

Jennifer Neumeyer has appealed the state’s decision to withhold the roughly $120,000 payment on the life insurance policy. She was recently scheduled for a phone hearing with the officials at Maine Public Employees Retirement System, but that hearing was postponed because Neumeyer lacked legal representation.

“They highly recommended I get a lawyer,” she said. “I was without anyone.”

Neumeyer called Pine Tree Legal Assistance for help, but she said that effort was spurned because the agency does not handle insurance cases. Neumeyer’s next best hope is a friend of a friend who happens to be an attorney. She was looking into Neumeyer’s case last week and had not decided whether to take the case. Neumeyer’s hearing was rescheduled for the end of the month. She’s hoping an attorney will step forward to help by then.

“I don’t have any money up front,” Neumeyer said. “I don’t know how I’m going to afford one.”

If no attorney steps forward to help her during the hearing, Neumeyer said, she will represent herself. That’s a prospect she finds more than a little daunting.

“I don’t know if that is a smart move or not,” she said. “The joke was that Scott was the brains of the operation. I was the one that made everything feasible.”

In the meantime, Neumeyer continues to work for the state as a secretary for the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands but is scrambling to provide for herself and her daughter, 13-year-old Colleen. She continues to live in the house they shared with Scott, but she is unable to make rent payments just on her salary. A recent storm blew open an upstairs window and broke the glass and part of the framing. Unable to afford a repair, Neumeyer instead covered it with plastic.

The property owner, whom Neumeyer has said is letting her and Colleen live in the home “out of generosity,” is not responsible for maintaining the home, according to the rental contract. That provision worked well until December. Now it’s just another reminder that Scott Neumeyer is no longer there.

“We had Scott, and he could do things like that,” Jennifer Neumeyer said. “It’s little things like that that I can’t afford to fix.”

The little extra expenses, such as fixing the broken window, also are why Neumeyer is so motivated to get the state to reverse its decision to reject a life insurance payout.

Scott Neumeyer suffered from a number of health maladies that started cropping up in early 2001. He was hospitalized several times for an unidentified sickness until doctors determined he had an aggressive form of ulcerative colitis. He was subsequently diagnosed with diabetes, which required him to take insulin.

Jennifer Neumeyer has said 2000 was the last year her husband’s body functioned properly, and his weight dropped from 220 pounds to 180 pounds despite his 6-foot 9-inch frame.

Scott Neumeyer, an office assistant with the Maine Department of Labor when he died, went to work for the state in 2003. What is undisputed by the state or Jennifer Neumeyer is that Scott Neumeyer signed up for life insurance when he took the job with the state.

That policy, equal to three times his salary, about $120,000, became active on Jan. 1, 2004. The premiums were taken automatically from Scott Neumeyer’s paycheck.

That process was interrupted, however, in June 2011 when Scott Neumeyer broke his femur by slipping and falling while running across a wet parking lot. Neumeyer was out of work for an extended period and wound up missing at least one paycheck, Jennifer Neumeyer said. Missing work interrupted his health insurance payments, which also came out of his paycheck automatically.

“In that time frame, health insurance contacted us by letter and then by phone saying his premiums weren’t paid and sent us a bill for about $1,300, which I paid,” Jennifer Neumeyer said in May.

Unknown to them, however, the missed paycheck also had affected his life insurance policy.

John Milazzo, general counsel and chief deputy director for the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, declined to answer specific questions about Scott Neumeyer’s policy pending Jennifer Neumeyer’s appeal, but Milazzo did provide a copy of the rejection letter he sent to Jennifer Neumeyer after reviewing the claim.

Milazzo said in May that the policy was still active in July 2011 when the Maine Public Employees Retirement System received notice that Scott Neumeyer was out on unpaid health leave that began in mid-June. The retirement system sent a bill to the Neumeyers’ home on Aug. 1, 2011, requesting a payment of $9.60.

“The notification stated that the premiums were due by Aug. 15, 2011,” Milazzo wrote in the rejection letter.

Jennifer Neumeyer said they never received that letter. The retirement system, which confirmed it had the correct address, said there is no indication the letter was returned as undeliverable.

“I got a letter for health insurance for $1,300 and I paid it,” Jennifer Neumeyer said in May. “Why wouldn’t I pay one for $9.60? It doesn’t make sense.”

The retirement system mailed a notice on Aug. 15, 2011, saying the policy would be canceled if premiums were not paid within two weeks.

“No premiums were received within that … time frame,” Milazzo wrote in the rejection letter.

The letter also noted that when a premium goes unpaid, the policy is canceled.

Jennifer Neumeyer said the second letter, like the first, was never delivered to their home. Then, in February, she learned that some contributions were taken from Scott Neumeyer’s checks in error. The retirement system said it would send a refund check the next month. She never received the check.

“They said it was probably lost in the mail, to which I said to them, ‘Along with my invoice from 2011,'” Neumeyer said in May. “Sometimes I get letters from them and sometimes I don’t.”

Jennifer Neumeyer learned the life insurance policy had lapsed when she talked to human resources officials the day she went to clean out her husband’s desk after his death.

Colleen Neumeyer, who, like her father, excels at mathematics and science, is spending part of this summer at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone. The Cony High School student dreams of attending school there full time, but Jennifer Neumeyer wonders how she could afford the room and board. Scott Neumeyer believed he had life insurance so his family would never have to worry about such things. Now it’s unclear whether that wish will be honored.

“My biggest thing right now is waiting for that,” Jennifer Neumeyer said.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4


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