Over the past five years, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation's (PBGC) Pension Search Program has located over 10,000 people owed about $34 million from terminated defined benefit pension plans. Still to be found are some 13,300 who can claim $43 million now held for them by the federal pension insurance agency. These individuals are listed in the program's Pension Search Directory on the Internet. To assist Spanish-speaking users of the pension search site, the agency now offers Instrucciones en Español.
"Although the vast majority of workers receive their full pension, some will be missing because they move or change names without giving former employers the new information," said John Seal, PBGC's Acting Executive Director. "Locating them is part of our basic job -- to make sure American workers receive all the pension money they earned. And so we're gratified that the Pension Search Program reached this milestone."
In the past year, PBGC found some 3,700 people owed about $14 million. Their estimated benefits range from $1 to around $63,000, averaging about $4,300.
The 10,000 people found since 1996, located in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, were concentrated in New York (1,582), California (1,407), Texas (624), Pennsylvania (617) and Ohio (605). For the more than 13,000 still missing, estimated benefits range from $1 to about $172,000 and average about $3,400. New York has the most missing participants (2,103), followed by California (2,064), Texas (1,722), New Jersey (808), and Illinois (639).
Once people find their names in the Pension Search Directory, they provide PBGC further details for verification of identity which generally takes 4-6 weeks. After PBGC receives a completed application, people eligible for a benefit begin receiving checks within two months. Those entitled to future benefits will receive them at retirement age.
To avoid becoming a missing pension participant, workers should tell their employer when they move or change names. And they should hold on to any pension information they receive from their employers. A person may be missing a pension from a former employer who ended a pension plan with sufficient funds or from a pension plan that was taken over by PBGC. Included in the Pension Search Directory are persons who may be able to document that they are owed a benefit, even though current PBGC records show that no benefit is due.
To better serve its Spanish-speaking customers, PBGC employs customer service representatives who are fluent in Spanish. In addition, the agency's widely-distributed booklet Finding A Lost Pension is now available in Spanish as Buscar la Pensión Perdida on PBGC's Web site www.pbgc.gov. English and Spanish versions of the booklet are available also by writing the PBGC Communications and Public Affairs Dept., 1200 K St. NW, Room 240, Washington, DC 20005-4026.
PBGC works continuously to locate missing people owed money from terminated defined benefit pension plans, assisted by the Internet, automated telephone directories, government agency databases and information from the general public. PBGC does not endorse firms or individuals offering to find missing pension benefits for a fee because the information is available from many sources such as the Pension Search Directory and others listed in "Finding A Lost Pension."
PBGC is a federal corporation created under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 to guarantee payment of basic pension benefits earned by more than 43 million American workers and retirees participating in nearly 38,000 private-sector defined benefit pension plans. The agency receives no funds from general tax revenues. Operations are financed largely by insurance premiums paid by companies that sponsor pension plans and by PBGC's investment returns.