OPM Retirement Backlog Jumps 15% to Start 2023

Although it rose considerably in January 2023, the OPM retirement backlog indicates that fewer federal employees retired at the start of this year than in past years.

The OPM retirement backlog saw its usual spike to start off the new year, but there were fewer incoming retirement claims at the start of this year than there have been in the past few years.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) received 12,404 new retirement claims in January 2023. It was able to process 9,142 during the month. The sharp increase in the number of claims coming in for the month pushed the total backlog up to 24,858, a 15% increase over the end of December 2022.

The average monthly processing time was a little slower this January than it has been in the prior few months. It took OPM on average 93 days to process retirement claims. A number that high had not been recorded since January 2022 when it took 94 days on average. Despite the longer processing times, OPM processed 18% more claims in January than it did during the previous month.

January is Typically the Worst Month for the OPM Retirement Backlog

January is usually the busiest month of the year for OPM Retirement Services since the agency receives the most new retirement claims that month for than any other. January 2023 looks to be no exception, however, fewer federal employees retired this January than in previous years.

The table below shows how the month of January has fared over the last few years in terms of the number of new retirement claims submitted by federal employees. As can be seen, January 2023 had the fewest retiring federal employees than in the five years prior.

Claims ReceivedClaims ProcessedTotal BacklogIncrease Over Prior Month
January 202312,4049,14224,85815%
January 202213,2668,68931,30736%
January 202113,8506,56926,96837%
January 202017,13410,05923,98342%
January 201913,2648,16223,12128%
January 201814,5908,63820,46741%

The stated goal for the OPM retirement backlog is for the agency to keep it at 13,000. Although the backlog was relatively constrained last month in that it only grew 15% amidst a surge of incoming claims, it is still 91% higher than its desired level of 13,000.

It has been almost a decade since the OPM retirement backlog last saw a level of 13,000 or fewer claims. It fell to 11,399 at the end of 2015, but then it jumped back up to 19,761 in January 2016 when 15,423 new retirement claims came pouring in that month.

The latest retirement processing data from OPM are included below.

OPM Retirement Backlog Processing Status – January 2023

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 42 days to complete; whereas cases that were produced in more than 60 days, on average, took 131 days to complete.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. 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.