Retirement Backlog Hits a New High

The backlog of retirement claims at OPM has reached its highest level in nearly a decade.

The retirement backlog at the Office of Personnel Management has reached a peak not seen in 8 years.

As of the end of August, the backlog now stands at 28,565, nearly 6% higher than it was at the end of July and the highest it has been since 2013 when it hit levels topping 30k and 40k some months.

OPM received 8,976 new claims in August (roughly the same number as July) and processed 7,412. While it processed more claims in August than July, it did so at a slower pace (93 days vs. 91 days average monthly processing time) which is likely a factor that helped push the total backlog higher.

Earlier this year, the average monthly processing times were well under 90 days; March, April and May for instance were 69, 71 and 70 days, respectively. But July saw it jump up to 91 days and then August went to 93. The average of the months before July was 75 days; when including July and August, the average for 2021 jumps to 79 days.

More claims were generally processed in the previous months in 2021 so far than in July and August which appears to have been a factor as well. March and May had over 8,000 claims processed during the month, and April had over 11,000, so the backlog had trended down those months. The average number processed per month so far in 2021 is 8,049; an average of 9,159 new claims have been received per month so far this year.

Are More Federal Employees Retiring?

So are more federal employees retiring this year than in previous years? The data indicate that is the case, and this will negatively impact the backlog as well.

These are the monthly averages:

YearAverage Monthly Claims Received
2021 (so far)9,159
20207,674
20198,465
20188,968
20177,994

It will be interesting to see how the retirement numbers fare for the remainder of the year. January is the busiest month of the year for federal employees to retire, so a much larger number of new retirement claims will presumably come in during January. If the backlog continues to grow throughout the rest of the year, it could start to get close to its all time high levels from 2013 come January.

The latest retirement 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
May-217,6848,45124,6197074
Jun-217,2646,88424,9997875
Jul-218,9226,92027,0019176
*Aug-218,9767,41228,5659378
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 39 days to complete; whereas cases that were produced in more than 60 days, on average, took 111 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.