the Internet to Find Workers Owed a Pension
2, 1998 - "No one told me I had a pension. I am glad
to know that there is a government agency like the Pension
Benefit Guaranty Corporation that took the time to look
for me and give me my pension." This was the reaction
of Ms. Carol Carson, Atlanta, Ga., to the news that PBGC
was holding a pension for her from her former employer in
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), which insures
traditional pensions known as defined benefit pensions,
is using the Internet to help unite people with their pensions.
In December 1996, PBGC set up the Pension Search Directory
on the Internet so American workers and others could search
on their own to find out if they are owed a pension from
former employers. The website address is http://search.pbgc.gov.
As of July 1998, PBGC had located 1,400 people owed more
than $4 million of pension benefits through the electronic
People listed in the Directory are either workers with pensions
whose former employers closed fully-funded pension plans,
or workers missing from underfunded pension plans taken
over by PBGC because the sponsoring companies could no longer
Listed are the names of people who are missing a pension,
the companies they once worked for, and the states where
company headquarters are located. People can search the
site by name, state, or company.
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 Directory helps
us find workers owed benefits who couldnt be
located when their pension plans closed," said David
M. Strauss, Executive Director of PBGC.
Like many of the people listed in the Directory, Ms. Carson
did not know that she had a pension coming to her; many
others forget that they earned a pension. People sometimes
forget to tell former employers they have moved, changed
jobs or changed names.
Another example is a woman who had worked for a heating
and air conditioning supply company and said she forgot
she had been covered by a pension plan: "I thought
I would remember I had earned a pension. Im glad PBGC
found me and was there to give me my pension."
Another woman who worked at a "do-it-yourself home
center" for 11 years was surfing the net one day and
was shocked to find herself listed under her former married
name. Even though she had closed out several pension plans,
she didnt know that another plan still had her listed
under her old name. She now realizes how important it is
to keep former employers informed of personal changes, "especially
women who have changed their names."
And, as Ms. Carson explained, "By the time I moved
it was almost 8 years since I left the company, and I didnt
think I had to tell them."
PBGC periodically updates the Directory to remove names
of people who have been found and add new people. Currently,
about 7,200 people are listed in the directory, along with
some 1,000 companies where they had worked, many in the
transportation, machinery, retail trade, apparel and financial
The companies are located in 46 states, Puerto Rico, and
the District of Columbia, with a majority of the missing
people who are owed pensions having worked for companies
located in California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts,
Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
Those who find their names on the website are directed to
instructions online or they can e-mail PBGC to start the
verification process. PBGC requires proof of age and other
legal documents to confirm an individuals identity.
Once PBGC determines that a person is entitled to the pension,
it makes payments as soon as possible, either as a one-time,
lump-sum payment, or as a monthly benefit for life at retirement
should be more organizations like PBGC," Ms. Carson
said, "to look out for Americas workers."
PBGC is a federal corporation created under the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 to guarantee payment
of basic pension benefits earned by some 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.