Despite Progress, OPM Retirement Backlog Still at 8 Year High

OPM made good progress on the retirement backlog in April, but it is still at an 8 year high.

The Office of Personnel Management made good progress in reducing its retirement backlog of outstanding retirement claims in April, however, the outstanding total backlog is still at its highest level since 2013.

After making an unusual turn for the worse in March, OPM processed 11,396 retirement claims last month against 9,414 new claims that came in. That brought the total backlog down to 25,386, a reduction of 7.24% over March.

The number processed during the month was the largest monthly amount processed since March of 2019 when the agency processed 13,217 that month. The progress would have been better had it not been for the higher than usual number of new claims that came in during April. The 9,414 new claims was the highest number ever received in the month of April since 2012.

While the latest data may make it appear as though a higher number of federal employees have been retiring this year than in past years, the figures indicate otherwise. The average number of retirement claims received for 2021 so far are right about in line with the figures for the same time period in the past few years:

Year (January – April)New Monthly Retirement Claims (Average)
202110,106
20209,928
201910,274
201811,009
20179,557
20169,924

OPM has also averaged 8,681 claims processed per month so far in 2021, the fastest pace since 2013 for the same time period. If that pace can continue, the backlog should continue to dissipate in the coming months, assuming the number of new claims that come in stay around their same levels from the last few years.

The latest complete data are included below.

MonthClaims ReceivedClaims ProcessedInventory (Steady state goal is 13,000)Monthly Average 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
*Apr-219,41411,39625,3867175
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 44 days to complete; whereas cases that were produced in more than 60 days, on average, took 99 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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