Women's Pensions:

Recent Legislation Generally Improved Pension Entitlement and Increased Benefits

T-HRD-92-20: Published: Mar 26, 1992. Publicly Released: Mar 26, 1992.

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GAO discussed the results of its studies on women's pension issues, focusing on: (1) the impact of the vesting and benefit distribution provisions under the Tax Reform Act of 1986; (2) widows' receipt of survivor pension income and the impact of the Retirement Equity Act of 1984 on their access to those benefits; (3) the role of the private pension system in improving the economic condition of poor widows; and (4) recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) efforts to improve the effectiveness of pension documents important to private pensioners' wives. GAO noted that: (1) recent changes will generally expand pension entitlement and increase benefits for working women and widows; (2) pension benefit entitlement for women will improve substantially under the Tax Reform Act because about 75 percent of women in pension plans will be vested compared to only 50 percent under pre-act vesting provisions; (3) the Tax Reform Act will improve benefit equity between men and women, particularly in pension plans sponsored by small employers; (4) survivor pension benefit coverage for private pensioners' wives increased after implementation of the Retirement Equity Act, which requires private pension sponsors to obtain a spouse's written approval when a married retiring worker chooses a payout option other than a joint and survivor annuity; (5) the private pension system alone will not help to ease the economic plight facing poor widows, which will continue to depend on social security; and (6) IRS recently initiated actions to improve the quality of pension forms a wife uses to waive survivor benefits, this effort will better ensure that wives are adequately apprised of the economic affects of their decision.

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