How Federal Employees Can Speed Up Processing Their OPM Retirement Applications

These are some common errors federal employees should avoid to help speed up processing their OPM retirement applications.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is continuing its push to have all agencies submit “healthy retirement packages” for processing in the Limestone cave. By “healthy”, OPM means complete.

The reason behind this push is to reduce the amount of corrections that have to be done once a retirement package has been submitted. A package that needs fewer corrections can be processed more quickly. This would seem to make a complete retirement package a priority for agencies and, even more so, for retiring employees who want to spend the least amount of time collecting interim pay instead of their full annuities.

OPM recently listed the most common errors they find in retirement packages. The bulk of the errors are viewed as items that fall under the responsibility of the agency HR/Retirement staffs or the payroll office, but there are some areas where a little help from the retiring employee could speed things along.

Common OPM Retirement Application Errors

Following are some of the most common errors where some diligence by the retiring employee could help.


The most common error is failure to document five years of coverage under FEHB. For the few readers who are unaware of it, a retiree must have been enrolled in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program for the five years immediately preceding retirement.

Here are some ways an employee can help:

  • If you are covered as a family member on your federally employed spouse’s FEHB, make sure your agency has a copy of form 2809 documenting your coverage.
  • If you are using Tricare or CHAMPVA for part of the five year requirement (as an enrollee or family member), you will want to ensure that your agency has a copy of:
    • Your uniformed services ID car (for Tricare);
    • Your CHAMPVA A card (for CHAMPVA).


Next on the list is failure to answer the question regarding former spouses (found in section E of CSRS applications and section C of FERS applications). All applicants for retirement need to answer this question, even those who were never married or who were married only once.

Spousal consent errors are next in line. For readers who are not aware of it, you must have your spouse’s signed, notarized consent for any survivor benefit election other than a full survivor benefit. Errors in this area are:

  • Not signed by the spouse
  • Signature not notarized
  • Notary commission expired
  • Not notarized on the same day the spouse signed
  • “Unacceptable corrections” (e.g., corrections not initialed, etc.)

If your retirement package is complete there will be less processing delays as OPM will not need to contact your agency for additional information. As an added benefit, in order to make the average retirement processing statistics look good, OPM may choose to expedite applications that can be easily completed.

Agencies can request to have John Grobe, or another of Federal Career Experts' qualified instructors, deliver a retirement or transition seminar to their employees. FCE instructors are not financial advisers and will not sell or recommend financial products to class participants. Agency Benefits Officers can contact John Grobe at to discuss schedules and costs.

About the Author

John Grobe is President of Federal Career Experts, a firm that provides pre-retirement training and seminars to a wide variety of federal agencies. FCE’s instructors are all retired federal retirement specialists who educate class participants on the ins and outs of federal retirement and benefits; there is never an attempt to influence participants to invest a certain way, or to purchase any financial products. John and FCE specialize in retirement for special category employees, such as law enforcement officers.