The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is a federal government agency that protects the pension benefits of over 33 million workers and retirees in private sector defined benefit pension plans under the terms of Title IV of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. § 1301-1461. PBGC insures two types of defined-benefit pension plans in two separate insurance programs: The single-employer insurance program, and the multiemployer insurance program.
PBGC pays monthly retirement benefits, up to the limits set by law, to more than 960,000 retirees in over 5,000 single-employer plans. PBGC provides financial assistance through loans to failed multiemployer plans so that the plans can pay benefits, up to legal limits, to over 93,500 retirees in 115 plans.
PBGC is committed to providing individuals with access to our programs and services, regardless of their ability to communicate in English. We do not require individuals who need language assistance to provide their own interpreters; rather, we provide an interpreter free of charge to any individual requesting or otherwise requiring language assistance. We have Spanish speaking employees in our Customer Contact Center and our Miami offices, and we make use of contracted interpretation services over the phone for other languages or when Spanish speaking employees are not available.
Eligible Service Population
There are several discrete populations within which PBGC is most likely to contact individuals requiring language assistance. These include:
- Workers, retirees, and beneficiaries who are pension plan participants
- Premium payers (PBGC-insured pension plans)
- Pension practitioners (attorneys, accountants, actuaries)
Of these three groups, only a small proportion of pension plan participants face barriers because of their Limited English Proficiency; premium payers and pension practitioners generally do not have difficulty with English.
Number or Proportion of LEP Individuals
In PBGC’s experience, less than 5 percent of all contacts (whether by telephone, email, or correspondence) involve individuals who require language assistance. Virtually all of such contacts come from pension plan participants, and Spanish speakers dominate these contacts. Occasionally, PBGC comes across a pension plan in which Spanish-speaking participants account for most or all of the participants but generally they are a small minority if any exist at all. Much less frequently, we are contacted by people who require assistance in a language other than Spanish. Such languages are Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Vietnamese, Polish, Italian, Haitian Creole, Thai, Greek, French, and Portuguese, among others.
Frequency of Contact with the Program
PBGC's eligible service population does not have constant contact with PBGC's program. Rather, the contact occurs because of specific (and sporadic) events such as a plan's termination and trusteeship, or the participant's application for retirement benefits.
Nature and Importance of the Program
The guaranteed pension benefits that PBGC pays to our eligible service population are typically a significant portion of their retirement income. Thus, access to our insurance program is very important to most of the people we serve, and inaccessibility could cause severe hardship both immediately and in the long-term.
PBGC has the resources necessary to give people needing language assistance meaningful access to its programs.
Currently Available Resources: The following services are now available to assist people with limited English proficiency:
- PBGC has a new Spanish language website with more than 90 pages with information for PBGC participants.
- PBGC's Office of Benefits Administration has a Foreign Language Services unit that coordinates the delivery of services in Spanish and any other language needed. The staff of the unit is fluent in Spanish and provides in-house translation services in that language.
- PBGC's Customer Contact Center for pension plan participants (1-800-400-7242) has a recorded message in Spanish and gives the caller the option of speaking with a Spanish-speaking representative, along with interactive response options in Spanish. The contact center is staffed with representatives trained to handle language assistance situations, including Spanish-speaking representatives.
- All PBGC forms, letters are available and sent in Spanish to participants who have specified a written language preference of Spanish.
- Many of PBGC's principal publications for participants are published in Spanish. ;
- PBGC's Appeals Board can accept and docket timely appeals received in Spanish and can translate Appeals Board decisions (always in English) to Spanish upon request.
- The Foreign Language Services unit have a contract with an outside firm for assistance in languages other than Spanish.
- The contracted service provides on-call interpretation that are quickly available to anyone within PBGC who needs this assistance to communicate with someone with Limited English proficiency. The contracted firm has interpreters available in 250 different languages.
- Participants wishing to receive correspondence in language other than English should contact the Contact center to request a Language Preference change.
- PBGC letters, forms, and enclosures can be requested in foreign languages and, when deemed necessary, PBGC will use the contracted vendor to translate letters, forms, and enclosures, as well as prepare replies in foreign languages.
How to Obtain Assistance from PBGC: People who will need language assistance in communicating with PBGC may obtain it by:
- Calling or writing to PBGC’s Customer Contact Center. The contact center may be reached by calling 1-800-400-7242. TTY/ASCII users may call 711.
- Sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Writing to PBGC, PO Box 151750, Alexandria, VA 22315-1750