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PBGC Blog: Retirement Matters

MyPBA  (My Pension Benefit Account) is our secure online service that lets you, the participant, handle certain common transactions with PBGC.

Participants in PBGC-trusteed plans can use PBGC's fast, free, and secure online service tool to apply for pension benefits, update contact information, adjust federal income tax withholding, and more.

Since generations accustomed to using technology are joining the ranks of retirees, this helps PBGC in enhancing technological resources, making your interactions with PBGC easier and more user-friendly.  

The old system, which came online around 2004, has been decommissioned, while the new MyPBA recently got a facelift complete with features designed to give participants a more convenient option to calling the agency's Customer Contact Center.

Some of the new and improved items include:

  • login
  • registration
  • email communications

About 250,000 participants with MyPBA accounts are expected to use the new MyPBA system at some time in the future.

But, if you wish to call PBGC's Customer Contact Center, we'd still like to hear from you!

Brown gavel sitting on a wood blockThings looked bleak last year for plan funding when a U.S. District Court in Massachusetts said private equity firms didn't operate as trades or businesses, but passive investors in the companies they own. If the ruling was left intact, it would have created a major loophole in this kind of liability for private equity funds connected to pension plans.

At the time, the court considered whether two funds managed by private equity firm Sun Capital were responsible for $4.5 million in withdrawal liability after their company, Scott Brass, a Rhode Island-based metal fabricator, left the New England Teamsters multiemployer plan.

Such distinctions are important because entities engaged in a trade or businesses may be responsible for pension shortfalls in single employer plans and for withdrawal liability in multiemployer plans.

Earlier this year, the Teamsters asked the First Circuit Court of Appeals to revisit the issue and PBGC filed a friend of the court brief supporting their cause.

More...

With recent news of the Detroit bankruptcy, more people are asking about PBGC's role in public pensions. However, by law, PBGC doesn't insure state, county, or city plans.

While we insure most private-sector (non-governmental) pension plans, Congress has also defined exceptions that PBGC does not insure. But for more information about public pensions, please contact the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems

Informational graphic with silhouette of call center representative on the right. The graph describes the responsibilities of the 70 team members mentioned in the article and the call volume received over the past two years, also mentioned in the article.

When retirees and workers wish to contact PBGC, they first turn to the Customer Contact Center, which does its best to answer every call.

The center is nestled in Kingstowne, Va., outside of the hustle and bustle of Washington. Its representatives are the agency's first responders, making sure no call goes unanswered.

The team of 70 comprised of two federal managers, 13 contact center leadership team members, and 55 customer service representatives, regularly communicate with the Corporation's Field Benefit Administrators (FBA), transferring participants' calls to the FBAs to ensure questions on benefit entitlement are answered. The center also transfers calls to the Corporation's lawyers when participants have inquiries regarding legal matters.

The number of calls received fluctuates each month. From 2010 to 2012, the center received an average of 521,000 calls yearly or about 2,000 every business day.

More...

The Wall Street Journal CFO Network Annual Meeting 2013 wrapped up last month. PBGC Director Josh Gotbaum participated in an interview session titled "The Great American Pension Crisis: Funding Past Promises and Future Retirement."

In his interview with Gabriella Stern, Deputy Managing Editor, WSJ Digital Network, Director Gotbaum focused on how U.S. companies will tackle mounting pension obligations in the coming years.

Dallas Salisbury, President and CEO, Employee Benefit Research Institute, also offered perspectives.

Take a look at the Dow Jones video recording of the interview. NOTE: The video may take a minute or two to fully load.

PBGC insures traditional pensions. So for years, we told people that we had nothing to do with defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s.

But we're also interested in the retirement security of all Americans. That's why we're considering a program that would deal with the benefits of missing participants in terminated defined contribution plans.

We're looking for feedback from participants, employers, and retirement experts on the value of developing such a program. We need input on the scope of the problem of missing participants and the need for PBGC to take in the benefits and look for people.

Also, we want to understand the value of a database where people can search for their benefits, and the impact that a PBGC program might have on private companies that perform similar services.

According to the Department of Labor, in 2010, the most recent year available, there were more than 650,000 defined contribution plans with 88 million people.  That same year, about 29,000 defined contribution plans, covering some 1.2 million people, terminated.

This effort would expand our finding an unclaimed pension search on the agency's website, where visitors can see if they're owed a traditional pension benefit from one of the failed plans PBGC assumed.

To make good decisions, and before we act, we're inviting the public to weigh in. You can submit your comments through reg.comments@pbgc.gov.