Senators Calls for Transparency in Recovering Overpayments to Bethlehem Steel Retirees

October 19, 2007 ( - U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski has asked the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) to have mercy on the retirees of bankrupt Bethlehem Steel, whose benefits were cut because the agency incorrectly overpaid them, the Associated Press reported.

The steel giant filed for bankruptcy in 2001 and in 2002 the PBGC assumed responsibility for the pension plan covering the company’s 95,000 workers and retirees – the largest pension takeover in terms of participants and the amount of the liability (See Steel Giant Salaried Retiree Coalition to End).

According to the news report, the PBGC admits that it miscalculated the payments of some, paying either the full amount they would have received from Bethlehem Steel without PBGC intervention, or more than they should have under the federal plan. The agency is now trying to recover the overpayments to participants.

Mikulski (D-Maryland) sent the letter to Charles E.F. Millard, acting director of the PBGC. According to the senator, about 3,000 retirees will have their pensions lowered and 1,100 will have to pay back as much as 10% of their monthly check until the agency recoups the entire amount.

Mikulski asked Millard in the letter to make sure that the process of recovering the overpayments from retirees is transparent. She also asked for a fair appeals process. “Retirees deserve to know if PBGC made a mistake. They should also know what their chances are of having an appeal decided in their favor,” she wrote, according to the AP.

Millard told the AP that the PBGC recognizes that retirees can find these “calculations confusing, even upsetting. I am personally committed to making sure that everyone’s questions are answered.”