2021 Monthly Average Was the Second Highest Retirement Backlog in a Decade

OPM’s retirement backlog drifted higher to finish 2021.

The retirement backlog at the Office of Personnel Management climbed for the last three months of the year to finish 2021.

According to the latest figures, the backlog of outstanding retirement claims finished the year at 26,730. That figure is just above both the 2021 monthly average (26,614) and median (26,595) figures.

The 2021 average monthly figure is also the second highest average of the retirement backlog since 2012 at which time the monthly average ended up being 53,294. There were three months that year when the total backlog was above 50,000, and the highest it was that year was 61,108 at the end of January.

OPM received 7,569 new claims in December and processed 7,200. Both of those figures are below the monthly averages for the year: 8,725 applications received; 8,138 claims processed.

The average monthly processing time in December was 92 days. This was well above OPM’s average for the year (83 days) and likely a contributing factor as to why the backlog went higher last month.

The fact that the backlog climbed for the last three months of the year is not the best scenario to close 2021 since a flood of retirement claims normally come in the first two months of the year with many federal employees retiring at the end of a year. Presumably, the backlog will go even higher at the end of January, but we will find out more when next month’s data are released.

For federal employees who recently retired or plan to retire soon, a higher backlog means they might be waiting longer to have their applications processed. OPM provides an interim estimated annuity payment until the application is fully processed after which time a full annuity payment then begins to be issued. For details, see OPM’s retirement FAQs.

December Retirement Backlog Over the Last Five Years

How does December 2021 compare to other years? Here is a snapshot of the last five years:

YearTotal Backlog
December 202126,730
December 202019,687
December 201916,908
December 201818,019
December 201714,515

Retirement Processing Data

The latest retirement processing data from OPM are included below.

MonthClaims ReceivedClaims ProcessedInventory (Steady state goal is 13,000)Monthly Average Processing Time in DaysFYTD Average Processing Time in Days
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
Sep-217,5897,34428,8109479
Oct-218,00610,71126,1059595
Nov-218,2668,01026,3617988
*Dec-217,5697,20026,7309289

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 114 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.