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U.S. Dept. of Labor restored over $2.5 BILLION to employee benefit plans and participants

The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) is a division of the U.S. Department of Labor. EBSA's directive is to educate and assist over 150 million workers, retirees and their families covered by private retirement plans, health plans, and other welfare benefit plans. By providing direct assistance to the public, participants are better enabled to "understand and exercise their rights under the law and, when possible, to recover any benefits to which they may be entitled."

Here is what you should know about  the major ways this agency helped the public in Fiscal Year 2019. Quoting EBSA's November 21, 2019 News Release:

EBSA’s enforcement and benefit adviser programs recovered over $2.5 billion in payments to plans, participants and beneficiaries from its investigations. Under its Terminated Vested Participant Project, EBSA helped participants collect nearly $1.5 billion in retirement benefits owed to them in the form of lump sum payments, present value of lifetime annuity payments and interest. EBSA’s criminal investigations led to the indictment of 76 individuals – including plan officials, corporate officers, and service providers – for offenses related to employee benefit plans.

The Office of Outreach, Education and Assistance’s benefit advisers returned $510 million to workers and their families through its informal complaint resolution process. The Agency’s benefits advisers provided informal assistance to more than 166,000 individuals, many of whom were seeking assistance relating to benefits from retirement, health, and other employee benefit plans. EBSA benefits advisers also take questions from and provide assistance to employers, plan sponsors, service providers and others to help them understand their duties and obligations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. 

EBSA also conducts outreach to educate the public about employee benefits laws.  Benefits advisers and other agency staff provided 1,788 outreach events in FY 2019. EBSA conducted 325 compliance assistance outreach events and 844 information sessions for dislocated workers across the country.

FY 2019 saw over 3.1 million visitors to EBSA’s website, where individuals can access information about laws governing employee benefit plans. EBSA also distributed 376,991 publications in that fiscal year.

EBSA continued to see large impacts in the termination of abandoned plans through the Abandoned Plan Program. In FY 2019, 661 plans made distributions totaling $33.2 million to participants under the program. In addition, EBSA continued to reach out to plan fiduciaries and others to participate in the Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (VFCP), and Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program to encourage the correction of ERISA violations.  These programs provide incentives for fiduciaries and others to self-correct by reducing or eliminating potential penalties and/or avoiding other adverse consequences. In FY 2019, EBSA received over 20,000 delinquent filings and 1,600 applications for the VFCP. VFCP corrections totaled $14.6 million during FY 2019.

The fact sheet is available on EBSA’s website at https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/EBSA/about-ebsa/our-activities/resource-center/fact-sheets/ebsa-monetary-results.pdf

The Department of Labor’s mission is to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the U.S.; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.