Full Annuity Payments – How Fast?

By on August 19, 2012 in Current Events with 108 Comments

FedSmith.com recently conducted a survey of our readers which asked about recent retirements and how long it took before retirees started receiving their full (as opposed to interim) annuity payments.  The questions we asked retirees were:

  1. What was your retirement date?
  2. Are you CSRS or FERS?
  3. Have you received your full payment yet?  If so, when?


There were a total of 347 responses, 56.8% CSRS vs. 43.2% FERS. Based on comments from some respondents, feelings about how OPM is handling the retirement process were mixed as some retirees were pleased but others were very unhappy.

Received Full Payment Median Wait (months) Still Waiting Total Respondents
CSRS 121 (61.4%) 5 76 (38.6%) 197
FERS  66 (44.0%) 7 84 (56.0%) 150
Total 187 160  347


Clearly, OPM is faster at processing CSRS cases. Almost certainly the reason is calculation of the FERS annuity supplement, payable generally when the retiring employee is under 62. The average completion rate for these cases, per worker, is just 3 per day.  In contrast, they can do 8-10 CSRS claims per day. When Mr. Berry, OPM head, was asked by Congress earlier this year how this can be, he had no answer.

Unfortunately, it is only going to get worse. Despite hiring 100+ new employees during the last two years, the rate of FERS retirements continues to increase steadily. Currently, it is only 44%, but it will gradually climb until it approaches 100%.  At the same time, phased retirements will be starting, requiring more calculations!

When calculation of the supplement is so data intense, intricate, and lengthy, you may ask why doesn’t OPM simply find and purchase one of the commercial software packages dedicated to this task?  This software can, typically, do a full calculation of the supplement in just a few minutes. With the magnitude of the workload, OPM could even pay to have the selected software customized for their purposes. Why don’t they do this? I do not know.

Visit my website: fedbens.us

© 2016 Robert F. Benson. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Robert F. Benson.


About the Author

Robert Benson served 35 years in various Federal agencies, as both a management analyst and IT specialist. He is a graduate of Northwestern University.

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  1. The Sky Is Not Falling! says:

    The end of America is coming if we don’t pay annuity claims faster? Hyperbole, for sure. 

  2. Sick of All the Nonsense says:

    If it
    rains or snows, it is President Obama’s fault according to those who hate him
    because he is Black. Amazing, no matter what the topic, haters manage to drag
    the President into it using misinformation and fear.  Sometimes I wish
    Mittens had won so folks like this GTD could see what a disaster this country
    would have become for the non-rich.


    It is
    such a LIE that President Obama won because folks on welfare voted for him.
     Most welfare recipients are White, and lower economic brackets
    vote less frequently than the middle class and higher.  I have
    never been on welfare, have a graduate degree, pay lots of taxes, and voted for
    the President both times. 


    The bills
    for Bush’s UNFUNDED Wars came in AFTER President Obama took office. Bush’s war
    costs were not included in the budget but had to be paid for eventually.
    Clinton REFUSED to add drug coverage to Medicare because there was no money to
    pay for it. What does Bush 2 do? Add drug coverage anyway.


    No use in
    talking reason or facts with you rabid Obama haters, neither matters. You are
    blinded by your prejudice. Thankfully, there was enough of a coalition
    (including white women) so that reason prevailed. America can be so ugly

  3. JK says:

    I retired 12/31/2011 with 43 years service.  My CSRS pension was not finalized until 11/15/2012.  Too long!

  4. Strhuntrss says:

    I bet that when an OPM eligible employee retires, they will have their retirement check PDQ. And it will not be an interium check either.

    I recently retired from the USPS under FERS with an incentive to leave early in August, 2012. The talk with OPM came out not so great. It will take 5 – 7 months before I can even receive a full pension. And I am still waiting on my interium payment check. its been 2 months so far with possibly in Dec being my first check being cut.  How can they say they are trying the best they can. I worked a 3 man job by myself when they downsized. 

    Come on OPM, get faster and take pride  or let a computer take over your job. Retiree’s deserve better. All the years of dedication and this is the thanks they get, you should be ashamed of yourselves. 

  5. Pitters1958 says:

    ok I have a  question…I received a letter from OPM telling me they had inadvertently overpaid me with my annuity since 25 September 10 and that I owed them $6403.29 paid back to them..
    I am reaaaaallllly mad about this and I am doing a waiver request because of the financial ruin I will put in such as losing my house because I can’t pay my bankruptcy anymore…
    I am at my wits end with the govt taking all the money they so inadvertently screwded up on their accounting system.  They should be held accountable for all this not the retiree!!
    this is a biggggggggggggggggg oopsie daisy bad thing..any suggestions????

  6. Disenchanted says:

    Why doesn’t some genius invent a software program that will help these folks out?

  7. JC says:

    Also, it’s probably the older more experience employees doing CSRS calculations, therefore they are quicker.

  8. JC says:

    It seems like they should triage it. Someone who has worked for one agency for 30 years shouldn’t be that complicated as someone who has worked at multiple agencies/military/peace corps, etc.  

    • fedbens.us says:

      To some extent, they are already doing this.  The CSRS retirements are much faster to do, hence the 5-month median wait for full payment, vs. 7 months for FERS.

      By the way, am I the only one who noticed when OPM talks about processing times, they NEVER mention CSRS vs. FERS?  They talk about them as though they are all the same!  If they were to acknowledge the difference, they might be questioned about the dramatic slow-ness of calculating FERS cases.  This could easily lead to loss of their hand calculators.  Then they would have to use a dedicated computer program that would cut calculation time by at least 90%, and reduce errors significantly.  After that… they would have to shed many dozens of the recently hired staff.

  9. IcekingZ says:

    I retired in 2006.   The retirement check was received in the month after I retired.  There was no break in payments.  I also received a check for unpaid annual leave within 45 days. No complaints here.

  10. concerned says:

    I know how you feel…just got a special notice opm telling me that I owed them $6403 overpaymes…nt
    they made to me from sept 2010 untul july 2012..now how in the heck is a person supposed to live on nothing..they are taking back what little my disability retirement gave me after 25 year

  11. concerned says:

    I tried to open the link you used fedbens.us and it won’t let me open it..it keeps giving me an error
     telling me that it can only be run on us….what program can this be run in???thanks…

    • fedbens says:

      “…only be run on us…”  what?  What is the rest of the message?  I just tried it, and it worked fine for me.  Have not had any other complaints.  Contact me at:  fedbens@aol.com

  12. Babs French says:

    Are the individuals    preparing these packages for us getting the proper training and do they have the tools and programs needed to prepare the packages. Are they getting adequate resourses needed and the time to complete each package. Are they aware of all the new rules and that each group/year of SS payer are going to be different. Do they care we could loose our good credit or a home or college for a child if these benefits, our paychecks are not paid timley. Maybe you need more than 100 new workers for a temporary period of time or keep doing you it yourself for one of the individuals that have been waiting for a while.

    • fedbens.us says:

      I believe the agency HR offices are generally very conscientious at putting together all that needs to be submitted, and doing it in a timely manner.  Consider this: the backlog ten years ago was negligible, and since then it has burgeoned to the point where OPM has bought in 100 or so new workers, at great expense to the taxpayers, by the way.

      Now… how likely is it that years ago the agency HR offices decided to start getting sloppy, leading to the current mess?  No, that is not the answer.

      From years of watching OPM, I am certain all roads lead back to the FERS annuity supplement and lack of a computerized tool for calculating it.  Please re-read my article.

  13. pattie pitts says:

    At least you didn’t receive a special notice from OPM stating that you now owe them $6400 due to them overpaying me for the past two years and they will be taking the payments out over the next 36 months..  I am so mad I could just blow a fuse!!!  

  14. Massnetwork says:

    While they are revamping the system.  I propose a bill on the hill to pay retirees every two-weeks.  Civil servants are paid every two-weeks for 25+ years.  At retirement the pay is monthly. SMH they expect one to unlearn their pay schedule in our older age….Why?

    • loving retirement in Alabama says:

      No thanks on this one! I like being paid once at the beginning of the month. I can pay all my bills and know how much I have left to budget for the rest of the month. Works great for me. I wish I had been paid monthly when I was working!

  15. Eclovis Fboc says:

    They DO have software to do the calculations. (Good heavens, it sounds like some people think they’re using quill pens or abacuses or something even more archaic, like adding machines!) I believe the problem lies with “plugging in the numbers” — that’s simply not as easy as it sounds. The staff has to ACCURATELY enter 20 to 27 annual salary rates from a variety of source documents. This information is not available digitally [yet], and is probably acquired from difficult-to-read scanned hard copies which were received from any number of different employing agencies (thereby increasing the complexity). THAT’s where the problems arise! Cut them a break! They’re hard-working individuals just like you and me!

  16. SMB says:

    I retired December 3 of 2011, and just today, August 20, finllaly received my full retirement.  To make it worse, they only gave me 40% of the estimate for interim payments because of a divorce, which they had a copy of showing ex spouse only got a flat amount.  Very unhappy with all the delays and the runaround I kept getting when I inquired.  My agency had a computer program that showed working dates, grades, etc., would seem OPM could use some automation.

  17. chi_techie2 says:

    I have a friend who retired (FERS) on 2/28/12 after 28 years of continuous service with the same agency.  No spouse, just plain vanilla.  She received her first payment on July 1 (80%), two weeks later got the balance and her first full payment on August 1.

    She got even luckier with her application for SS Disability – approved the first time, which is very rare.  Maybe it’s because she’s had MS for 15 years…

  18. CAS1951 says:

    You can’t blame the entire problem on OPM, as in many cases, the agency that you’ve retired from has errors in their submission to OPM.  Also, if you’ve worked at numerous agencies–this too, can slow up the calculations. 

  19. Thorn says:

    I retired under CSRS and it took 5 months to finalize my retirement with me giving no advance notice to HR/OPM. This processing is about a month earlier than I expected although I was getting less than half of my estimated interim monthly pension payments. 

    The issue of opening, funding and rolling over my Voluntary Contribution Account, available to CSRS employees, demonstrates a much greater OPM failing.  It has been and still is a personal nightmare.  I made the initial request to open this special savings account through ABC-HR to OPM in October 2010.  I responded to every request promptly and 22 months later this account has yet to be rolled over into an institutional Roth IRA.  The government is sitting on more than 100K of my money which is now earning zero interest!

    The response from my congressman’s office is that ‘we have more complaints about OPM than any other agency and they are extremely slow about responding to us.’ My calls to OPM have often been ignored and emails take months to get a response to sometimes with incomplete or partial answers.  Had I shown this kind of inefficiency during my federal career I would have been fired long before reaching retirement age.   

  20. msgrowan says:

    For those with short memories, OPM did attempt previously to automate the civil service retirement application processing function through its RETIRE-EZ program, which failed due largely, according to GAO, to inadequate contractual oversight by OPM (OPM had contracted with Hewitt and Associates to develop the software necessary, but dropped the ball on performing the necessary oversight and coordination functions with the contractor).  John Berry, OPM’s current Director, announced the formal termination of the RETIRE-EZ program last year.  OPM has had an unfortunately long record of embarking on such flawed automation initiatives; so the RETIRE-EZ flop was not totally unexpected.  Whether a new such effort by OPM would fare any better is at best doubtful. All this renders OPM’s projected involvement in implementing Obamacare all the more frightening.

    • fedbens.us says:

      Interesting.  Just my opinion, but I believe a major reason for the failure was they planned too big – it was just so large, comprehensive, and complex… it was doomed from the beginning.

      Instead, design and implement one simple program.  For example: the calculation of a FERS annuity where there are no breaks in service, all the service is in one agency, the high-three salaries are all at the end, there is no part-time or intermittent service, etc.  Keep it real simple. After testing, use it for several months on actual cases that are not too complex. 

      Once the bugs are fixed, you can start adding a bell here and a whistle there.  Eventually, you can go through the same process for CSRS caculations.

      Progressive and incremental.  I believe the above approach could do the job.

      • msgrowan says:

        I don’t disagree.  However, the average tenure for an OPM Director since the agency’s inception in 1979 (stemming from the 1978 CSRA legislation) has been about three years or so, and the urge to “swing for the bleachers” in order to seek a quick, high visibility  impact and burnish one’s resume for a higher level political appointment has been overwhelming.  Unfortunately, few OPM Directors have acheived a bona fide administrative “home run” via this approach.  Indeed, the sole exception that comes to mind is Constance Berry Newman, who served in that position under President H. W. Bush, being instrumental in securing passage of the major 1990 FEPCA legislation.  Preceding and succeeding OPM Directors have tended to “strike out” when it comes to launching ambitious projects.  The present incumbent, Mr. Berry, continues that mediocre at best tradition.

        • fedbens.us says:

          That is interesting. Thank you.

          Building on what I previously said, any journeyman benefits person at OPM who happens to know VisualBasic, or something comparable, could produce  a KISS program in only a few weeks of part-time effort.  I know this for certain, because I have done it, and I am not even an OPM employee.

          My website with Federal calculators has had many thousands of visits and many thousands of program executions, with remarkably few complaints.  I would be delighted if a proactive OPM person would emulate what I have done.  OPM management would then be far more receptive of innovation from one of their own than from outsiders.

  21. Hank says:

    I am a CSRS retiree and it took OPM 10 months before I was notified of my final pension computation.  Problem was they had made three errors, they did not include a surviver annuity, and had me down for the wrong health plan.  In addition they had me down as self and family for my health insurance instead of self only. 

  22. Hank says:

    I am a CSRS retiree and it took OPM 10 months before I was notified of my final pension computation.  Problem was they had made three errors, they did not include a surviver annuity, and had me down for the wrong health plan.  In addition they had me down as self and family for my health insurance instead of self only.