PBGC Reunites 15,000 With "Lost" Pension Benefits

January 22, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) has located nearly 15,000 workers who were owed more than $61 million in pension benefits since launching its Pension Search Program in 1996.

The 14,743 people found since the program began live in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.   Not surprisingly, most were concentrated in high population states:   New York (2,247), California (1,678), Texas (1,226), Florida (890) and Pennsylvania (828).  

Since October 2001, the PBGC has found approximately 4,500 people who are owed $27 million.   Their estimated benefits range from $1 to $123,498, averaging $6,540.

However, the recent reunion of people with their “lost” benefits represents just the tip of the iceberg.   Still to be found are some 22,000 people who are still owed almost $80 million in pension benefits from terminated defined benefit pension plans, according to the PBGC.  The unclaimed benefits range from $1 to $295,298 and average about $3,774.   New York (4,622), California (2,617), Texas (1,606), New Jersey (1,334) and Pennsylvania (1,170) have the most missing participants, the PBGC said.

Missing Pensions

Recently, the PBGC added missing participants to the Pension Search Directory.   The new additions include several thousand who earned benefits under some 12,000 pension plans that terminated between January 1, 1976 and December 31, 1981 without amending their vesting schedules to conform to ERISA.  

To avoid missing pension dollars, the PBGC says 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.   Many people are unaware of lost pension dollars, as the funds are often from a former employer who ended a pension plan with sufficient funds or from a pension plan that was taken over by PBGC, according to the report.

Once people find their names in the Pension Search Directory, they will need to provide PBGC further details for verification of identity, which generally takes four to six 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.

Pension Search

Participants wishing to take a crack at the lost pension fund lottery may do so at www.pbgc.gov/search .   The Web site has recently been enhanced with the addition of an automatic e-mail capability in the name of each missing person.   Now individuals named in the Pension Search Directory can send an e-mail to PBGC with basic information, such as a current mailing address and dates of employment, to find out if they are entitled to a missing pension benefit.  

Searchers can still e-mail found@pbgc.gov or missing@pbgc.gov if they believe they are entitled to a benefit.