OPM Retirement Backlog Drops Below 23k to End Q1 2023

The OPM retirement backlog dropped again in March 2023 to close at just under 23,000.

The OPM retirement backlog has just barely dropped under 23,000 to finish the first quarter of 2023.

The total backlog now stands at 22,925, down from 23,500 (-2.4%) at the end of February.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) received 8,354 retirement claims and processed 8,929 of them during March, the fewest in a single month so far in 2023. It processed them at an overall faster pace though than in January or February, taking just 69 days on average. So far in 2023, it has taken OPM 76 days per month on average to process retirement claims.

The OPM retirement backlog is still at a higher level than it was at the end of 2022 when it stood at 21,596 at the end of December. It also has been three years since the backlog was last under 20,000. The last time the OPM retirement backlog got below this level was at the end of April 2020 when it was 19,889.

OPM’s stated goal for the backlog is 13,000, but this is a level that has not been achieved since 2015. At the end of October 2015, the OPM retirement backlog dropped to 12,642. It proceeded to go lower for the remainder of that year, but in January 2016 it jumped back up to 19,761, a whopping 71% increase, with the surge of federal employees retiring at the end of a calendar year.

March tends to be the first month that the retirement claims activity at OPM cools off somewhat from the end of year retirements. The table below shows how the OPM retirement backlog has fared from March 2018 – March 2023.

Claims ReceivedClaims ProcessedTotal Claims Backlog
March 20238,3548,92922,925
March 202210,0429,11723,850
March 20219,6648,75627,368
March 20206,5668,93121,264
March 201910,04813,21720,201
March 20187,76713,26218,730

Which Federal 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 State35
Department of Health and Human Services27
Department of Homeland Security27
Department of Defense23
Department of Veterans Affairs22

It’s interesting to note that the State Department was in fifth place last month but jumped up to the top spot this month.

These agencies collectively have the fewest retirement application errors:

Agency% of Cases With Errors
Joint Payroll Office4
National Aeronautics and Space Administration5
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation6
Environmental Protection Agency8
United States Postal Service9

The governmentwide error rate was 18% as of the end of March 2023.

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

OPM Retirement Backlog Processing Status – March 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 34 days to complete; whereas cases that were produced in more than 60 days, on average, took 142 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.