My first car. Man, I loved it. Got it in high school. With it the world was my oyster. That’s because that car, like oysters or for that matter, minds, tended to be better when opened up. But I digress….

The great quality of that car was that provided you took care of the essentials; it would never let you down. A simple and beautiful notion that the manufacturer brilliantly incorporated into its design.

Believe it or not, that same principle holds true for your Benefit Funds. You have to know a few essentials in order to best make use of your benefits. So without any further ado, listed below are a few Local 697 Benefit Fund Essentials.

1. Don’t delay keeping the Benefit Office updated in changes in your life that can affect the various Funds ability to either communicate properly and timely with you or any eligible dependent or its capacity to process applications, claims, and answer questions quickly and efficiently.

2. Understand your Benefits and stay informed: It is in your best interest to take the time to read, learn, and understand your benefits and to pay attention to all communications from the Fund Office.

3. Be an advocate: Encourage other union members to learn and understand their benefits.

Conversely, and unless you are certain that an individual has a complete understanding of the benefit and equally sure as to what your hearing are the facts, rather than a point of view or an opinion, don’t rely on others to disseminate the rules, provisions, or communications from the various Benefit Plans for you.

Actually, if this describes you, and to quote Yoda,”You must unlearn what you have learned.” After that you will need to be like a scientist and commit yourself to the pursuit of truth by reading up on the benefit yourself. If still confused, bring your questions to, or call the Fund Office at 219-940-6181. Or go to the Funds website:

4. Be proactive: Take a proactive approach to your health and well-being, such as attending preventative check-ups and screenings.

By the way, and not unlike your relationship with the Fund Office, being pro-active is an easy, but often underused, way of not only managing your health but building a trusted relationship with your medical providers.

5. Seek care when needed: Don’t put off seeking medical attention when you need it, as early treatment can prevent more serious problems from occurring down the line.

6. Communicate clearly and timely: Communicate clearly and timely with your healthcare providers and the Fund Office to avoid misunderstandings.

7. Be honest: Provide accurate and truthful information to your healthcare providers and to the Benefit Fund Office.

8. Know the players: Expectations not based on fact, more often than not lead to disappointment. Keeping that in mind, learn and understand what each professional in the chain of your medical care is responsible and accountable for and what they are not. Then address your questions, concerns and/or requests to the appropriate party or entity.

9. Report fraud: Report any suspected fraud or abuse to the Fund Office immediately.

10. Keep your card safe: Keep your insurance card safe and report any lost or stolen cards immediately.

11. Show up at a membership meeting, then attend another. Repeat.

By the way, my first car drove for over 300 hundred thousand miles without issue before I had to give it up. For that exact reason both professionals and enthusiasts cite this specific model of car as what they would like to see in their post-apocalyptic garages. Was it sexy? No. Not even close. But it was practically indestructible, provided, of course, you knew and took care of the basics.