ASPPA Recommends Simplified Guidance on Same-Gender Spouses in Employee Benefit Plans

| December 4, 2013 | 0 Comments

Arlington, VA (December 3, 2013) – The following is a statement from Ronald J. Triche, Esq., assistant general counsel and director of government affairs for the American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA) regarding ASPPA’s recommendations to the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) for the treatment of same-gender spouses in employee benefit plans covered under ERISA:

“On September 18, 2013, EBSA expanded the definition of ‘spouse’ in ERISA-covered employee benefit plans to include legally married, same-gender spouses in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision this summer, and promised further guidance addressing specific provisions of ERISA and its regulations at a later date. ASPPA is pleased to have the opportunity to provide recommendations to the EBSA in advance of this forthcoming guidance. Implementing these recommendations will mitigate uncertainty for plan sponsors and plan administrators related to participants with legally married, same-gender spouses.

In a letter to EBSA submitted December 3, 2013, ASPPA specifically recommends the following:

  1. EBSA should deem plan distributions under pre-Windsor rules to be compliant in both form and operation with the plan document and ERISA.
  2. 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.
  3. Participants should have a duty to notify plan administrators about their same-gender spouses
  4. Exemptions should be granted for pre-Windsor prohibited transactions between a plan and a now-recognized same-gender spouse.
  5. 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.
  6. DOL should grant relief from any refilling 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.“

About ASPPA:

The American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA) is a national organization of more than 16,000 retirement plan and benefits professionals that serves as the educator, voice and advocate for the employer-based retirement system. ASPPA members are administrators, actuaries, advisors, attorneys, accountants and other financial services professionals who provide consulting and administrative services for qualified retirement plans. For the latest news, visit

Media Contact:

Ryan Shucard

Media Relations Manager

(703) 516-9300

Ext. 130

[email protected]

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