Income Support: Pensions



Pensions are retirement programs established and maintained by employers. Money in most pension programs is put in by employees and employers, although there are some plans that are funded only by employees. Pensions are payable upon retirement either after a certain number of years of employment or at a certain age of the former employee. The Employment Retirement Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is a federal law which provides pension plan protection to some workers who are employed by companies in the private work force.

ERISA sets minimum standards for pension plans and guarantees that pension rights can not be unfairly denied or taken away from workers. No employer is required to set up a pension plan. If a plan is established, it must be in writing and have some established procedures for operation. Usually to qualify to draw benefits under any pension plan, an employee must have worked a set number of years, generally at least five and sometimes more. Typically, if an employee failed to meet the minimum employment period, he or she is not eligible for any benefits under the pension plan.

The Department of Labor is the federal government agency that promotes the interests of workers and retired workers. The Department of Labor's Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration Section enforces the laws requiring company and union pension plans to provide pension plan information and to invest pension plan funds in the best interests of the plan participants.


U.S. Department of Labor
Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration
61 Peachtree Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30367
(404) 347-4090

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is responsible for ensuring that company and union pension plans comply with federal pension and tax laws. If you think your pension plan is violating any federal pension or tax laws, you have two options. First, you can write to the Employee Plans Technical and Actuarial Division of the Internal Revenue Service. You can actually speak to an IRS lawyer or actuary between the hours of 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays (except for holidays).


Employee Plans Taxpayers Assistance Line
1111 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room 6526
Washington, DC 20224
(202) 622-6074 or 6075

The second option is to contact the Customer Service Unit in Baltimore, Maryland. The IRS has the authority to require an audit of a pension plan to make sure that it is complying with federal law.


Customer Service Unit
P.O. Box 13163
Baltimore, MD 21203
(404) 331-0170 (Atlanta) or (410) 962-6058

Government Pensions

The following is a listing of agencies that should be contacted if your pension is through the federal government, military, a state, county or town.

1. Federal Government

Civil Service:

Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
Retirement Information Office
1900 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20415
(888) 767-6738

Federal Employees under the Federal Thrift Plan:

Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board
1250 H Street, NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 942-1600

For other federal government pensions not listed here, contact the personnel office of that agency for the address of the retirement office.
For additional assistance with pension problems, call the Georgia Senior Legal Hotline at (404) 657-9915 or (888) 257-9519.

2. Military Pensions

All branches of the Armed Services have recently consolidated their pension information efforts and are located in one building and with the same 1-800 number. This number is also appropriate for former spouses or survivors of military employees with Court Orders for sharing pensions:

Military Retired Pay Center
1240 East 9th Street
Cleveland, OH 44199
(800) 321-1080

3. State, County, City and Town Pensions

Contact the personnel office of the employer. If the office is unresponsive, contact your state legislator or state attorney general.

For additional assistance with pension problems, call the Georgia Senior Legal Hotline at (404) 657-9915 or (888) 257-9519.

From Access: Benefits and Resources for Older Georgians
Last Updated October 2002

Natalie Thomas
Georgia Department of Human Resources
Division of Aging Services
Two Peachtree Street, NW
36th Floor
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-3142
(404) 657-5258

Last Review and Update: May 06, 2008