Cobert Says More Funding Needed to Fix Retirement Applications Backlog

Acting Office of Personnel Management director Beth Cobert recently addressed the agency’s seemingly endless backlog of retirement applications and discussed the steps being taken to improve it.

In a recent blog post titled “Commitment to Customer Service,” acting Office of Personnel Management director Beth Cobert addressed the massive and seemingly unending backlog of retirement applications the agency is burdened with.

The gist of the post is that OPM is well aware of the problem and is seeking more funding to implement their plans to fix it.

“Each year, more than 1.5 million current or retired Federal employees and their families call OPM’s Retirement Services team with a wide range of questions. We also receive more than 280,000 questions via email and more than 100,000 new retirement claims each year,” wrote Cobert.

She went on to say that OPM needs more funding to address the problem:

Each of these interactions is important, and every one of these individuals is entitled to a timely, accurate, and detailed response. At OPM, we are consistently working to improve the quality of this experience for our customers. The President’s budget provides additional funding to help us decrease the amount of time a customer has to wait to talk to a representative or get a response to their email. And, the added resources will help us reduce the time it takes to process a retirement claim.

She also specifically addressed the annual influx of retirement applications OPM gets in January that is always a setback and how OPM deals with that unusual burden:

At Retirement Services, 80 percent of our budget is devoted to personnel. But, at certain times in the year that is not enough and we need to add to our customer service staff to help handle spikes in retirement claims.

For example, the beginning of each year is the busiest, with 26 percent of retirement claims being filed during the first six weeks of the year. In January, we brought detailees on board from the human resources retirement sections of the United States Postal Service (USPS) and from the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) to help us handle the dramatic increase in claims.

Cobert also had this tip for federal retirees:

Retirement Services is also consistently upgrading and adding features to our Retirement Services Online website and providing web-based tutorials for customers. Retirees can use the website to update their mailing addresses, change their Federal and state income tax withholding designations, request a duplicate annuity booklet or print their Retirement Services ID card. The more retirees and their families turn to our online services for basic needs, the quicker our team can respond to more complex questions.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.