President Bush Signs Older Americans Act
WASHINGTON – The ability of the nation’s retirees to get their earned pension benefits was strengthened this week, when President Bush signed H.R. 6197, the “Older Americans Act Amendments of 2006,” into law. The Pension Rights Center, the nation’s only consumer organization dedicated solely to protecting and promoting the retirement security of workers, retirees, and their families, hailed the bill’s enactment as a vital component of ensuring that Americans have enough money to live on when they retire. One of H.R. 6197’s provisions continues the U.S. Administration on Aging’s (AoA) funding of six regional pension counseling projects that serve 25 states.
The AoA began funding the pension counseling projects in 1992. The counseling projects provide assistance to individuals who need help in understanding and enforcing their pension and retirement savings plan rights. Services these projects provide include:
“More than 50 million American workers are covered by government and private pension and retirement savings plans,” said John Hotz, deputy director of the Pension Rights Center. “The inherent complexities of these plans and of the laws that govern them make it extremely difficult for individuals to navigate the system. No single government agency has the ability to resolve the wide range of pension problems that can come up, so these counseling projects are often the only resource to which workers and retirees can turn for comprehensive assistance.”
Since their inception, pension counseling projects have helped thousands of individuals, recovering nearly $70 million in benefits that otherwise would have gone unclaimed. The states currently served by counseling projects are Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin.
The Pension Rights Center’s National Pension Assistance Resource Center provides technical assistance and training to the counseling projects. The Center is also working for expansion of the program to every state and U.S. territory.