If You Are Not Yet Receiving Benefits
When PBGC takes over as statutory trustee of your plan, we will send you a letter in the mail informing you that we are now responsible for paying your pension benefits.
We will pay your pension benefit when you have satisfied all of the conditions required by your pension plan and apply to PBGC to begin payments. The conditions that must be met in order to be eligible for a pension differ from plan to plan. Some of the factors that may determine your eligibility include age and years of service.
About four months before you are ready to begin receiving your pension, call our Customer Contact Center toll-free at 1-800-400-7242.
We will begin to pay your benefit on the date you select. This date is called the annuity starting date. Under certain circumstances, you may be eligible to receive benefits for one or more past months. In this case, your pension will have a retroactive annuity starting date. Typically, participants and surviving spouses with retroactive starting dates have benefits that do not increase with a later annuity starting date, such as an unreduced early retirement benefit, or benefits that do not increase because of PBGC limitations.
If we have not yet completed all of our calculations for your pension plan, our first payments to you will be an estimate of the benefits that PBGC can pay up to the limits set by law. Due to these limits, some participants may receive a pension benefit that is less than the amount provided for by the plan.
When all of our calculations for your pension plan are complete, we will send you our formal determination of your benefit. Please note this may take two to three years from the date we take over as trustee of your plan.
You can find out more here:
You can find out about the annuity forms available to you in PBGC's publication, Your PBGC Benefit Options: Questions and Answers for Participants.
Some pension plans offer their participants lump sums for the full value of their pensions, but PBGC usually doesn’t. By contrast, PBGC normally distributes benefits in monthly payments for life. However, if the total value of your benefit is $5,000 or less, you can receive a lump sum from PBGC.
You generally can put all or part of your lump sum into a traditional Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) or other qualified plan. If you have PBGC pay the lump sum directly to your IRA or other plan, PBGC will not withhold tax from the payment. With this type of payment, called a "tax-free rollover," you will not have to pay tax until you receive payments from the IRA or other plan. You can get more information about tax-free rollovers by contacting your local Internal Revenue Service office, calling 1-800-TAX-FORM, or visiting the IRS website.
PBGC will pay you the benefit provided by your pension plan up to the limits set by law. There are several legal limits that PBGC must apply.
Maximum Benefit Guarantee: PBGC's maximum benefit guarantee is set each year under provisions of ERISA. Under the single-employer program, the limit is adjusted annually based on changes in the Social Security contribution and benefit base. Generally, the maximum limit for any pension plan is permanently established for that plan based on the plan's termination date. However, when termination occurs during a plan sponsor's bankruptcy and the sponsor entered bankruptcy on or after September 16, 2006, the maximum guarantee is determined as of the date the bankruptcy proceeding began. An earlier date also may apply for certain airline industry plans.
For those not yet retired, the age used to determine the maximum guarantee is the participant's age as of his or her retirement date. See PBGC's maximum monthly guarantee tables for maximum guarantee limits for straight-life and joint-and-50%-survivor annuities at various ages. Special rules may apply for disabled participants. See Guarantees for Disabled Participants.
Phase-in of Guarantee of New Benefits: If your plan was created or amended to increase benefits within five years before its termination date, your benefit may not be fully guaranteed. PBGC guarantees the larger of 20% of the benefit or $20 per month for each full year the benefit was in effect. Participants may receive the full benefit increase if the increase has been in the plan more than five years. Generally, benefit increases occurring within one year of plan termination are not guaranteed. If you own more than 50% of the business, stricter limits apply. If you have a benefit increase as a result of the shutdown of a facility that occurs after July 26, 2005, and less than five years before your plan's termination date, the increase is not fully guaranteed. Different rules may apply if your plan terminated while the plan sponsor was in a bankruptcy proceeding or for certain airline industry plans.
Supplemental Benefits: If your plan provides supplemental benefits, such as temporary payments, they may not be fully guaranteed. Generally, PBGC does not guarantee any monthly pension amount that is greater than the monthly benefit your plan would have provided if you had retired at your normal retirement age. Special rules may apply for disabled participants. See Guarantees for Disabled Participants.
Benefits From More Than One Plan: There is a limit on the combined amount you can receive from PBGC's funds if you are entitled to benefits from more than one pension plan that PBGC has taken over as statutory trustee.
PBGC does not pay pension benefits to workers who continue to be employed by the company that had sponsored the pension plan. If you wish to start drawing your pension benefit, you must first terminate your employment with the company. However, there is an exception to this rule. When you reach your normal retirement age, you may start drawing your pension benefit even if you are still working for the sponsoring company.
You cannot earn additional benefits from your plan after it terminates.
If you become disabled after your plan terminates, you will not be eligible for disability benefits under your plan or for the higher limits that apply to the PBGC benefits of certain disabled participants.
PBGC will not adjust your pension yearly to account for inflation.
PBGC only deducts federal income taxes. You will have to pay separately any state taxes or other amounts (such as health insurance) now being deducted.
You have the right to appeal PBGC's formal determination of your benefit. In any appeal you should provide specific reason(s) why the determination is wrong.
However, if you simply have a question about your benefit or how it was calculated, you should call PBGC's Customer Contact Center for an explanation, instead of filing an appeal.
Your written appeal must be submitted within 45 days of the date of our formal determination letter informing you of your benefit.
If you need more time to resolve your question before that 45-day limit expires, you can request an extension from PBGC's Appeals Board.
To find out more, see: Appeal formal determination