Retirement Backlog Surges by 37% in January

OPM’s retirement backlog hit a new high to close out January.

The backlog of retirement claims at the Office of Personnel Management took a big jump in January with the typical greater number of federal employees retiring at the end of the previous year.

It’s always interesting to see how many retirement applications come pouring into OPM at the beginning of a new year. The end of a calendar year is one of the more popular times for federal employees to retire. It also can be a good time to retire to maximize benefits options.

While the number of new claims that came in during January was a lot, it was among the lowest in the last six years.

The table below shows the key stats from OPM in January which is generally the busiest month for new retirement claims. 2021 is the second lowest during that time period in terms of incoming claims, second only to 2019.

MonthClaims ReceivedClaims ProcessedInventory
January 201518,6297,66222,636
January 201615,4237,06119,761
January 201715,3177,32723,087
January 201814,5908,63820,467
January 201913,2648,16223,121
January 202017,13410,05923,983
January 202113,8506,56926,968

This January, the backlog grew by 37% thanks to the influx of new applications. It now stands at 26,968 total claims, the highest it has been in at least the last six years. The reason for that is like due to the number of claims processed in 2020: last year, OPM averaged 7,442 claims processed per month. That is the fewest of any year since 2015.

OPM processed more applications last month than it did in December, but the average number of days to do so was higher (85 days) than it has been since last summer.

The latest complete statistics are included below.

MonthClaims ReceivedClaims ProcessedInventory (Steady state goal is 13,000)Monthly Average Processing Time in DaysFYTD Average Processing Time in Days
Disability determinations are included in the pending number after approval. Average Processing Time in Days represents the number of days starting when OPM receives the
retirement application through final adjudication.
*Initial retirement cases produced in less than 60 days, on average took 51 days to complete; whereas cases that were produced in more than 60 days, on average, took 104 days to complete.

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.