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What ERISA plan information am I entitled to?

The Employment Retirement Security Act of 1974, alternatively known as ERISA, protects the assets of American workers. For those in New Jersey who are not fully aware of the details of this law, a prior post discussed it. In addition to the basics of ERISA, there is more in-depth information that should be known, such as the plan information and what participants are entitled to. If the information is not given or there are other problems with ERISA, it is imperative to have legal help.

The people running the ERISA plan must give information in writing regarding the facts of the retirement, health benefits, rules, financial information and documents as to how the plan is being run. Some of this information should be given to participants on a regular basis and done so automatically. Other information should be available to the participants when they request it, free or with only copying fees charged. When a person is requesting this information, it should be done in writing.

A key document that the participants should get is the summary of the plan. This is referred to as the summary plan description. When the participant asks for this, the plan administrator is required by federal law to provide it free of charge. SPD tells those taking part in ERISA what the plan will provide and how it works.

The employee will also receive information as to when they can participate in the plan, how the service and benefits will be calculated, when vesting occurs, how benefits are paid, and how a claim for benefits should be filed. If there is a change to the plan, the participants must be informed via a summary plan description or a summary of material modifications. This should also be free. Participants should also automatically receive a summary annual report. This will detail the finances and generally must also be filed with the Department of Labor. This, too, should be free of cost.

Taking part in ERISA is not just a simple matter. Participants have the right to receive certain information about it and receive it as requested. If there is an issue with ERISA or any confusion regarding how to get information about the plan, it is wise to have legal assistance. Speaking to an attorney who has experience with ERISA can help.

Source: dol.gov, "ERISA," accessed on Aug. 14, 2017

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