Miller Files Bill to Preserve Pilots' Pensions

U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. and chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, filed a bill yesterday to help commercial airline pilots get more from their pensions after their employers terminate their pension plans. The terminated plans are taken over by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which pays retirees no more than $49,500 per year (for plans terminating in 2007). But because PBGC reduces benefits for workers who retire before the age of 65, and the Federal Aviation Administration requires pilots to retire at age 60, the maximum benefit for pilots is $32,175.

"The federal government is responsible for trapping pilots in this double-bind," Miller said. "The PBGC and the FAA are both federal agencies, but because their rules don't align, pilots are forced to pay the price. Pilots earn every dime of their pension benefits, and they don't choose to retire at age 60. The time to fix this problem is now." The bill is named the Pilots Equitable Treatment Act; it would require the PBGC to treat age 60 as the normal retirement age for pilots. Pilots would get the maximum benefit as someone who retires at 65.

Miller cited the 2005 termination of United Airlines' employee pension plans. He held an online forum for United workers, and hundreds of employees participated. Because pilots often earn substantially more than $49,500 per year at retirement, many pilots already face deep benefit cuts when their pension plans are terminated, according to Miller.

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