Authorizing Legislation: Title II, Section 215 of the Older Americans Act of 1965, as amended
The Purpose of the Program and How It Works
Today, there are more than 700,000 private (as well as thousands of public) pension and retirement plans in the United States. Given that an employee may have worked for several employers, who may have merged, sold their plans, or gone bankrupt, it is very difficult for the average person to know where to get help in finding out whether or not he or she is receiving all of his or her pension benefits.
AoA’s Pension Counseling and Information Program promotes the financial security of older individuals and enhances their independence by empowering them to make wise decisions with respect to pensions and savings plans. The program assists older Americans in accessing information about their retirement benefits and helps them to negotiate with former employers or pension plans for due compensation.
AoA currently funds six regional counseling projects, covering 30 states. These projects provide hands-on assistance in pursuing claims through:
Handling administrative appeals processes;
Helping seniors to locate pension plans “lost” as a result of mergers and acquisitions;
Answering queries about complex plan provisions; and
Making targeted referrals to other professionals for assistance.
Projects serve individuals, regardless of age or income, who:
Reside or work in the project’s service region; or who
Worked or resided in the project’s service region while earning a pension, or when married to an individual earning a pension; or who
Seek pension benefits that are sponsored, administered, trusteed, or otherwise held or distributed by an entity that is or was headquartered or operated within the project’s service region.
By producing fact sheets and other publications, hosting websites, and conducting outreach, education and awareness efforts, pension counseling projects also provide indirect services to tens of thousands of older adults and their families.
AoA also funds a National Pension Assistance Resource Center which provides support to the projects, as well as to State and Area Agencies on Aging, Aging and Disability Resource Centers, legal services providers, and others by providing substantive legal training, technical assistance, and programmatic consultation.
The Pension Assistance Resource Center also assists individuals living in areas not currently served by a project. Current initiatives include development of a comprehensive dataset of pension information and resources to be used for a web-based pension assistance and referral system.
Data Highlight: Extensive Services Provided to Seniors
Data for the program shows that pension counseling projects have:
Obtained more than $205 million in retirement benefits, a return of nearly $9.00 for every federal dollar invested in the program
Served more than 52,000 individuals
FY 2010: $1,718,738
FY 2011: $1,715,562
FY 2012: $1,712,757
FY 2013: $1,616,769
FY 2014: $1,602,007
Pension Assistance Resource Center
The Pension Rights Center serves as AoA’s National Pension Assistance Resource Center. It provides legal consultation and training to the pension counseling projects, State and Area Agencies on Aging, Aging and Disability Resource Centers, and legal services providers.