TN 2 (10-19)

RM 03201.005 SSA's Role in Assisting Private Pension Plans and Separated Participants

A. Background on SSA Pension Plan Involvement

SSA furnishes needed information to private pension plan administrators and to the workers participating in those plans. Department of Labor (DOL) data reflects that in 2015 there were over 693,925 pension plans.

1. Before 1974

Since 1948, SSA has provided information from its earnings records to private pension plan administrators. Pension plans use the detailed annual earnings amounts of participants in the specific pension plan to determine each worker's eligibility and pension amount. In plans where more than one employer contributes, the pension plan may use the earnings information to allocate pension costs among the employers.


RM 01407.003 provides further discussion of how, and under what conditions, we provide a worker's earnings history to pension plans.

2. Beginning with 1974

On September 2, 1974, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 — commonly referred to as ERISA — was enacted. ERISA introduced provisions to protect the pension benefit rights of workers. These included special reporting requirements concerning funding, investment, and accrued benefits due participants. ERISA also required SSA to:

  • Obtain information reported to IRS by pension plan administrators about participants who have left work covered by a plan but who have earned a right to future pension benefits under the plan. Such benefits are called “vested benefits.” The information reports must include the name and address of the plan administrator, name of the plan, name and SSN of terminated employees with vested benefits, and the amount and type of benefit.

  • Notify claimants for monthly title II benefits, the lump-sum death payment, or hospital insurance benefits under title XVIII of any information SSA has on file about their vested pension benefits or about the vested pension benefit of the NH upon whose record the claimant filed application.

  • Provide to number holder (NH), upon request, information SSA has on file about NH's vested pension benefits; or if NH has died, provide requested information to individuals entitled to any underpayment due the deceased NH.

3. ERISA processing via the ERISA Filing Acceptance System (EFAST), effective 2004

Starting it June 2004,the DOL, via their ERISA Filing Acceptance System (EFAST), scanned and electronically transferred to SSA the Form 5500 Schedule SSA. The IRS used EFAST for scanning and sending SSA electronic data until June 2010. The Wilkes-Barre Direct Operations Center (WBDOC) processed any EFAST fallout. The ERISA data transmitted by EFAST and the WBDOC all went into the ERISA database maintained by SSA Systems

4. ERISA processing via the IRS Files Information Returns Electronically (FIRE) System as of June 2010

The IRS could no longer use DOL’s EFAST to send SSA the Form 5500 Schedule SSA due to the requirement to post 5500 data on a public website. The Schedule SSA could not be included with the rest of the 5500 data on the public website as it contained personally identifiable information. The IRS did the following:

  • Developed Form 8955-SSA to replace the Schedule SSA.

  • Gave filers use of their FIRE System to submit Form 8955-SSA to them electronically. In turn, the IRS submits that electronic data to SSA.

  • The IRS also receives paper 8955-SSA forms and then ships them to the WBDOC where they are scanned and transmitted to SSA’s ERISA database.


For several years (from about 2013 through 2016) SSA used a contractor to scan paper Forms 8955-SSA, although WBDOC continued to process problem Forms during that time.

B. Policy for Disseminating ERISA Data

SSA maintains the IRS data from plan administrators who provided information on their separated plan participants who have private retirement benefits due. As a result, when individuals apply for social security benefits, our Systems checks our ERISA data from the IRS to see if they may have deferred vested pension benefits. If our records show they have ERISA data on file, we mail them a “Potential Private Retirement Benefit Information” notice advising them they may have potential private retirement money due (Form SSA-L99-C1). We mail these letters on a monthly basis.

In providing notification to claimants and others upon request, SSA is to:

  • Provide clear, accurate, and prompt ERISA notices.

  • Reply promptly to inquiries about SSA ERISA notices, SSA's role in ERISA matters, or general non-technical aspects of ERISA that can be answered by general information available in POMS or other available public information materials.

  • Refer inquiries, where appropriate, to proper source for technical information about ERISA provisions. (See RM 03270.005RM 03270.007).

  • Safeguard the privacy rights of all workers for whom SSA has pension information on file. For rules governing access to an individual's record maintained by SSA, see GN 03301.005.


SSA is not the source of the information on the “Potential Private Retirement Benefit Information” notice. Therefore, generally we are not able to address specific questions about the individual’s plan or related benefits. The “Potential Private Retirement Benefit Information” notice directs the individual to call DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA); therefore, please direct the individual making specific inquiries to EBSA if necessary.

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RM 03201.005 - SSA's Role in Assisting Private Pension Plans and Separated Participants - 10/01/2019
Batch run: 10/01/2019