OPM IG Provides Update on Retirement Claims Backlog

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By on November 26, 2018 in Retirement with 0 Comments

Stacks of file folders filled with papers sitting on a desk with a blurred image of a woman sitting at the desk behind them depicting a paperwork backlog

The Inspector General for the Office of Personnel Management said in a recent report that OPM has some more work to do in meeting its stated goals for staying on top of its backlog of retirement applications.

OPM has said previously that it has a goal of improving “retirement services by reducing the average time to answer calls to 5 minutes or less and achieve an average case processing time of 60 days or less.”

Here is what OPM’s IG had to say about the agency’s efforts in meeting this goal:

OPM appears to remain focused on its internal process improvements and external outreach towards other Federal agencies to meet their goal. However, while Retirement Services appears to have met its average case processing goal for FY 2018, with an average processing time of 59 days, its claims backlog as of September 2018 was 17,628, more than 4.5 percent higher than at the same time a year ago. In addressing the average call answering time, Retirement Services stated that the average time to answer calls in FY 2017 was 9.7 minutes, but it increased to 12 minutes in FY 2018, more than double the strategic plan goal of 5 minutes or less. Again, no data was provided to support Retirement Services’ average time to answer calls.

In order to alleviate the excessive busy signals and long wait times, Retirement Services provided more automated services via Services-On-Line, a redesign which went live on June 10, 2018, featuring a new technology stack with responsive design that is compatible with any hand held device, and provides a more customer friendly experience and efficient processing of transactions.

In continuing its efforts, Retirement Services plans to:

  • Continue to integrate improvements for correspondence and claims processing;
  • Enhance reporting tools to monitor and address Retirement Services workloads;
  • Utilize overtime to assist with timely processing;
  • Work with the OCIO to investigate technological capabilities to help improve processing time and reduce wait times;
  • Continue to provide Federal retirement policy technical assistance to all OPM offices and Congress;
  • Perform on-going audits of agency submissions;
  • Provide monthly feedback to agencies and payroll offices and alert them of trends and improvement opportunities; and
  • Identify training needs for agencies, develop job aids and on-line training modules, and conduct workshops on the retirement application process.

OPM must continue to work to obtain the necessary resources to ensure that the needs of its customers and stakeholders are met.

OPM’s retirement backlog was higher than usual as of the end of October. It tends to decline during the last couple of months of the year and then see a massive surge in January and February due to a wave of end of calendar year retirements. We shall soon see if this pattern plays out again.

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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