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Important documents

Plan administrators are required to provide notices to pension plan participants, including annual notices of pension plan funding and deferred vested letters when an employee terminates and has earned a vested benefit. The information in these notices can be used to locate your pension plan and to determine whether the plan is a defined benefit plan or not.

Deferred vested letter

When you left employment, you may have received a letter from your retirement plan’s administrator to inform you that you are entitled to a future benefit. This letter is called a deferred vested letter. Plan administrators send deferred vested letters to participants in all types of retirement plans, not just defined benefit plans. Here’s how to tell if your letter is from a defined benefit plan:

  • The benefit is payable as a monthly benefit commencing on a normal retirement date.
  • The letter does not refer to an account balance payable at any date. Plans with account balances are generally defined contribution plans such as 401(k) plans, employee stock ownership plans (ESOP), or money purchase plans. PBGC does not insure defined contribution plans.

If the deferred vested letter is from a defined benefit plan, you can use the information in your letter to locate your pension plan and determine whether it is ongoing or has been trusteed by PBGC.

Social Security Administration potential private pension benefit information

When you apply for Social Security or Medicare benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will send you a notice if you earned a pension or other retirement benefits. This Notice of Potential Private Benefit Information (Form SSA-L99-C1) can be an important source of information about your past entitlement to a benefit and help you track down a point of contact at your plan.

Learn more about this form: FAQs on SSA Potential Private Retirement Benefit Information.

Please note: Receiving this notice is not a guarantee that you are still due a benefit. You may have received your benefit as a lump sum sometime after you terminated employment. Many people, especially early in their careers, take their entire benefit as a small lump sum and understandably forget about it over the years.

The Form SSA-L99-C1 may also show information about benefits earned in a defined contribution or other type of plan. Here is how to tell if your form is for a defined benefit plan:

  • Type of annuity is not “M.”
  • Payment frequency is “E.”
  • Units or Shares is blank.
  • Value of account is blank.
Sample Form SSA-L99-C1 benefits information
Plan Name Plan Number
Identification Number
Year Reported Estimated Amount
Plan Administrator and Address Type of Annuity
Payment Frequency
Units or Shares
Value of Account

If your Form SSA-L99-C1 is for a plan other than a defined benefit plan, contact the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (DOL/EBSA).

If you do not have Form SSA-L99-C1, you can request a copy from the SSA by sending a L99 Request Letter to:

OCO Office of Earnings Operations
Attention: ERISA Correspondence Group
P.O. Box 33007
Baltimore, MD 21290-3307

Social Security earnings statement

Your detailed earnings record from SSA shows how much you were paid each calendar year by each employer. You can find on your earnings record the employer identification number, which may be helpful in tracking down the plan. SSA also provides a summary earnings statement, but this statement does not provide information about the employer.

Complete Form SSA-7050, “Request for Social Security Earnings Information,” to request a copy of your detailed earnings record from the SSA. This form is available online or by calling 800-772-1213. This form will include fees you may need to pay for the information. The response from SSA may take 120 days or more.

In certain situations, if PBGC determines it may be responsible for paying your benefit, PBGC can obtain your earnings statement directly from SSA with your authorization. There is no cost for the earnings statement when PBGC makes the request.

Summary plan description

A summary plan description (SPD) describes the rules of the pension or other retirement plan, including who is covered by the plan, what is required to become vested, how benefits are calculated, how benefits are paid out, and other information. Private pension and other retirement plans are required to automatically give SPDs to all plan participants. SPDs are often provided as bound booklets and increasingly are available online.

PBGC has access to historical SPDs of pension and other retirement plans from 1975 to 1991 and will provide copies upon request. If you participated in a pension or retirement plan during that time period, a historical SPD may provide information about the plan’s rules and other benefit features in effect at the time that you were employed. Learn more: Requesting a Summary Plan Description.

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