NU Online News Service, Sept. 16, 6:14 p.m. – House Republicans are still trying to ward off efforts by Senate Democrats to create an Office of Pension Participant Advocacy.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has included a provision that could create the office in S. 2766, the appropriations bill for the Labor, Education and Health and Human Services departments. The bill would shift $3 million from an existing Labor Department unit, the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration, to the new pension participant advocacy office.
The new office “would serve as a voice for employees and retirees within the federal government,” Karen Ferguson, director of the Pension Rights Center, Washington, testified at a recent hearing of the House Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations, according to a written version of her remarks.
The most important function of the office “would be to identify gaps in the laws, develop reform recommendations, and serve as an advocate for current and prospective pensioners before Congress and the other government agencies,” Ferguson said.
The new office could help make up for the fact that Congress has split responsibility for enforcement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act between the Labor Department and the U.S. Treasury Department, and that the Treasury Department seems to be more interested in maximizing tax revenue than in protecting pension plan participants, Ferguson said.
But Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Richardson, Texas, the chairman of the Employer-Employee Relations subcommittee, said forming the new office would be a waste of $3 million.
The PWBA’s “work is vital to workers, assisting them in getting the information needed to protect their benefit rights,” Johnson said. “I can not believe the United States Senate has proposed cutting the budget for pension cops on the beat at this time. That’s just wrong.”