Despite 7% Drop in May, OPM Retirement Backlog Still Over 32k

A nice reduction was made to the OPM retirement backlog in May 2022, but the total figure is still over 32,000.

The OPM retirement backlog was reduced in May, but it still stands at 32,346, higher than at any point last year.

The total backlog was reduced by 7.4% in May, dropping to its current level from 34,939 in April. It was even higher though, hitting a peak in 2022 so far of 36,349 in March.

The number of incoming retirement claims in May remained relatively high, certainly in comparison to the last few years, but the Office of Personnel Management nevertheless was able to process more claims than it received (10,266 processed in May vs. 9,673 claims received) to help reduce the backlog.

The time it took to process the retirement claims went up over April, however, taking an average of 88 days to process claims in May whereas it was 80 days in April.

2022 continues to be a popular year for federal employees to retire based on the number of incoming retirement claims. Here are some figures:

 Claims ReceivedClaims ProcessedTotal Backlog
May 20187,6257,09018,024
May 20197,8778,45117,228
May 20206,6488,36018,177
May 20217,6848,45124,619
May 20229,67310,26632,346

The average number of incoming retirement claims at this point in the year is higher than in the last few years also. The average number of monthly claims process each month is also a little bit lower than a couple of the other years.

 January – MayAverage Claims ReceivedAverage Claims Processed

Collectively, all of it means a backlog that has grown more this year than in the last few years.

Federal employees who may be seriously weighing retirement this year in order to take advantage of a large cost of living adjustment (COLA) next year may be disappointed and need to make sure they fully understand how the annual COLA adjustment is calculated, particularly with respect to new federal retirees. Spoiler alert: if you retire and start receiving annuity payments in 2022, you will not be eligible for the full COLA in 2023. It is explained in detail in this article: Predicting the 2023 COLA and How to Avoid the Surprise of a Lower Annuity Payment.

Our readers tell us frequently that it will sometimes take months for their retirement application packages to be fully processed by OPM and their full annuity payments to start coming. Federal employees should always factor this into their financial planning and at a minimum have a plan for the first 6-12 months that takes into account the possibility of a lower annuity payment in that time covered by other means, be it income from the TSP or other investments, cash/emergency savings, a spouse’s income, etc.

You also should be aware of common mistakes made on retirement applications as these mistakes can slow down the retirement application process. These articles offer some additional information:

OPM Retirement Processing Status – May 2022

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 35 days to complete; whereas cases that were produced in more than 60 days, on average, took 109 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.