The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), the federal pension insurance agency, is looking for almost 7,200 people owed nearly $13 million in pension benefits. Since launching its Pension Search Directory on the Internet 18 months ago, PBGC has located nearly 1,400 hard-to-find people who are owed more than $4 million.
"We are continuously striving to ensure that workers receive every dollar of their hard-earned pension. By searching the Pension Search Directory on the Internet, hundreds of people have received millions of dollars in lost pensions," said Alexis M. Herman, Secretary of Labor and Chairman of PBGC's Board of Directors.
The Pension Search Directory lists workers who have pension money coming from terminated defined benefit pension plans. Those found to date are owed benefits ranging from a few dollars to more than $100,000, with an average benefit of about $4,100. The Pension Search Directory is available on the Internet.
"The vast majority of workers receive their full pension, but sometimes people move and forget to inform past employers of their new address. The Pension Search helps us find workers owed benefits who couldn't be located when their pension plans closed," said PBGC Executive Director David M. Strauss.
People were found in 40 states, with 309 in California, 113 in New York, 87 in Pennsylvania, 87 in Illinois, 81 in Florida, 79 in Texas, 74 in Massachusetts, and 74 in Ohio. They worked for 225 employers.
Once people find their names on the Internet website directory, they provide more personal details to PBGC for verification of identity, including proof of age and other vital statistics. The identification process 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 their benefits when they reach retirement age.
Many of the names in the Pension Search Directory are workers with pensions whose former employers closed pension plans and distributed benefits. Others are workers or retirees missing from underfunded pension plans taken over by PBGC because the plans did not have enough money to pay benefits.
The Pension Search Directory currently identifies about 1,000 companies, many in the transportation, machinery, retail trade, apparel and financial services industries, that closed pension plans in which some former workers could not be found.
To avoid becoming a missing pension plan participant, workers should tell their employer when they move and they should keep any information they are given about their pension benefits and the pension plan.
PBGC works continuously to locate missing people owed pension benefits, using information from Social Security, credit bureaus, commercial locator services and telephone listings.
PBGC is a federal corporation created under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 to guarantee payment of basic pension benefits earned by about 42 million American workers and retirees participating in about 45,000 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 investment returns.
[TABLE - PBGC Pension Search Program, State Data]