OPM Retirement Backlog Slashed By Over 5% in February

Fewer incoming retirement claims than in past years and faster processing times helped slash the OPM retirement backlog in February 2023.

The OPM retirement backlog dropped by nearly 5.5% last month, going from 24,858 at the end of January to 23,500 at the end of February 2023.

The Office of Personnel Management also dramatically improved processing times in February, taking only 65 days on average to process retirement claims. In January, the figure was 93 days, so this is an improvement of 30%.

OPM received 9,562 new retirement claims last month, 23% fewer than in January (12,404). It processed 10,920 claims in February, thereby allowing OPM to cut the backlog down to 23,500, a reduction of 1,358 claims over January.

Despite last month’s progress on the OPM retirement backlog, it still remains at a higher level than it has been in past years and is well above OPM’s stated goal of 13,000. In 2020 for instance, the backlog got down to 17,432 in June, and in June 2017 it was 14,530.

February is normally the second busiest month of the year for incoming retirement claims at the Office of Personnel Management, second only to January. However, February 2023 turned out to be less busy than in some past years in terms of incoming retirement claims. The table below shows how February 2023 compares to past years.

Claims ReceivedClaims ProcessedTotal Backlog
February 20239,56210,92023,500
February 202212,2418,12435,424
February 20217,4958,00326,460
February 20209,2739,62723,629
February 201910,79210,54323,370
February 201813,2909,53224,225

Which Agencies Have the Most Errors on Retirement Applications?

Errors on retirement applications are the most common culprit of delaying processing of federal employees’ retirement applications. According to OPM, these are the agencies that have the highest percentages of errors on non-disability retirement application packages:

Agencies% of Cases With Errors
Department of Health and Human Services42
Department of Justice32
Department of Defense31
Department of Homeland Security31
Department of State29

These agencies have the fewest errors:

Agency% of Cases With Errors
Social Security Administration14
General Services Administration7
United States Postal Service7
Joint Payroll Office6
National Aeronautics and Space Administration6

The governmentwide error rate is 21%. All of the above figures are as of the end of February 2023.

Horizontal bar graph showing the percentages of retirement application errors for large federal agencies as of February 2023
Percentages of non-disability retirement application errors rates by agency as of February 2023

How Can Federal Employees Avoid Processing Delays on Their Retirement Applications?

According to OPM, the best way for federal employees to avoid processing delays with their retirement applications is to ensure that they submit a “healthy” retirement application package. This means that the application is complete and free from errors. It is also best to begin the application process as early as possible.

OPM states, “You can help reduce delays in processing by submitting your application in advance and by making sure your Official Personnel Folder (OPF) is complete. If you submit your paperwork early, your personnel and payroll offices will be able to complete their action before your retirement date.”

OPM Retirement Backlog Processing Status – February 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 27 days to complete; whereas cases that were produced in more than 60 days, on average, took 135 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.