ASPPA pushes to streamline same-sex plan changesNews added by Benefits Pro on December 6, 2013

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By Dan Cook

The American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries, responding to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, has submitted recommendations to the U.S. Department of Labor on how best to handle changes in same-sex partner benefits.

In a letter to the DOL, Ronald J. Triche, ASPPA’s assistant general counsel and director of government affairs, offered six suggested policy statements designed to lessen the burden on plan administrators as they seek to integrate the U.S. Supreme Court’s Windsor decision into their plans. Final guidelines will be set by the DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration.

Triche said ASPPA’s recommendations would ease the process of making plans Windsor-compliant.

“Implementing these recommendations will mitigate uncertainty for plan sponsors and plan administrators related to participants with legally married, same-gender spouses,” he said.

The recommendations:
  • EBSA should deem plan distributions under pre-Windsor rules to be compliant in both form and operation with the plan document and ERISA.
  • Plan administrators should not be required to notify participants and spouses of new rules and only modify administrative forms where there is any gender-specific spousal reference on a going-forward basis.
  • Participants should have a duty to notify plan administrators about their same-gender spouses.
  • Exemptions should be granted for pre-Windsor-prohibited transactions between a plan and a now-recognized same-gender spouse.
  • EBSA should publish model language for summary plan descriptions and summaries of material modifications to give notice to participants about the effect of the Windsor decision.
  • DOL should grant relief from any refiling requirements and related penalties for plans that used an incorrect form for a pre-Windsor Form 5500 filing.
“We believe that incorporating our recommendations into EBSA’s guidance will ensure plan administrators, plan sponsors and, most especially, plan participants have all of the information necessary to ensure minimal disruption and mitigate any uncertainty related to the existence of same-gender spouses in ERISA-covered plans,” Triche said.

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