OPM’s Retirement Backlog Creeps Higher in March

The backlog of outstanding retirement claims at OPM hit a new six year high last month.

The backlog of retirement claims at the Office of Personnel Management climbed 3.43% higher in March and is starting to approach a milestone figure that won’t be appealing to retirees awaiting their benefits payments.

The backlog is inching towards the 30,000 mark having climbed over 27,000 last month (27,368). It moved higher thanks to a larger number of new claims coming in during March (9,664) and only 8,756 claims processed. However, the number processed was higher than in February and was also done so at a faster average pace.

The retirement backlog is now the highest it has been in the last 6 years. Since 2015, the highest the backlog got until now was 24,225 at the end of February 2018. In 2021, it has remained above 26,000 so far and has averaged 26,932 so far this year.

One might think that is because the number of new claims coming in has been higher in the first quarter of 2021 than in other recent years. Turns out that is not the case though. The numbers break out as follows:

YearAverage Monthly Claims Received in Q1Average Monthly Claims Processed in Q1
202110,3367,776
202010,9919,539
201911,36810,640
201811,88210,477
201710,5498,738
201610,8198,215
201511,1098,134

As the numbers indicate, the higher backlog today is due to fewer claims being processed in Q1 2021 in comparison to past years. More new claims came in on average over the last few years but OPM was able to better keep up with the incoming applications (column 2 in the table above) which helped keep the backlog from growing as quickly.

The latest complete retirement processing statistics are included below.

MonthClaims ReceivedClaims ProcessedInventory (Steady state goal is 13,000)MonthlyAverage Processing Time in DaysFYTD Average Processing Time in Days
Oct-197,0446,53817,8825959
Nov-197,8227,31418,3906261
Dec-195,2056,68716,9086662
Jan-2017,13410,05923,9835861
Feb-209,2739,62723,6295459
Mar-206,5668,93121,2646160
Apr-206,7408,11519,8896861
May-206,6488,36018,1778364
Jun-206,5557,30017,4328165
Jul-206,8196,62017,6319568
Aug-206,7755,83618,5707368
Sep-206,2446,54018,2747369
Oct-208,3236,99219,6057777
Nov-205,8765,45920,0227476
Dec-205,1355,47019,6877475
Jan-2113,8506,56926,9688578
Feb-217,4958,00326,4607778
*Mar-219,6648,75627,3686976
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 46 days to complete; whereas cases that were produced in more than 60 days, on average, took 115 days to complete.

About the Author

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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