OPM Retirement Backlog Drops to Six-Year Low to Finish June

The OPM retirement backlog dropped in June to a new low for 2023 and to a level not seen since 2017.

The OPM retirement backlog dropped to its lowest level since 2017 to finish the month of June.

The Office of Personnel Management received 4,854 new retirement claims last month but was able to process 6,609. This brought the total backlog down to 16,370, a reduction of 9.7% over May. This is the lowest it has been since 2017; the total backlog was 14,515 at the end of 2017.

Last month’s progress continues the same trend we have seen with the backlog so far in 2023. It has dropped each month after the typical spike in January to start off the year at which point it grew by 15% over the end of 2022. Despite the setback at the start of the year, the backlog has been reduced by 34% in the first half of 2023, going from 24,858 to 16,370.

OPM’s stated goal for the retirement claims backlog is 13,000, so the agency is starting to inch closer to that.

How Has the OPM Retirement Backlog Fared in June?

So far in 2023, the median figure for the total backlog is 21,655; it has averaged 21,027 total claims.

The median figure for new claims received by OPM is 8,326 and the median figure for claims processed is 9,036.

The table below shows the historical performance of the OPM retirement backlog from June 2019 – June 2023. Fewer federal employees retired during June 2023 than the other years which probably helped OPM make greater progress in reducing the retirement backlog.

Claims ReceivedClaims ProcessedTotal Backlog
June 20234,8546,60916,370
June 20226,0327,93530,443
June 20217,2646,88424,999
June 20206,5557,30017,432
June 20198,2016,92818,501

Which Federal Agencies Have the Most Errors on Retirement Applications?

Federal employees who want to avoid processing delays on their retirement applications should strive to have what OPM calls a “healthy” retirement application. This means that it is one which is a “complete and accurate package that does not have to be developed for missing, inaccurate, or discrepant information.”

OPM recently released a new retirement guide for federal employees, in part to help reduce errors and delays. The guide also is designed to help prospective federal retirees better understand the steps involved with processing their retirement applications. As of June 2023, the retirement guide estimates that most federal retirees will receive their full annuity payments within 3-5 months of retiring.

OPM also reports which federal agencies have the most errors on retirement applications each month. These are the agencies that had the highest percentages of errors on non-disability retirement application packages in June 2023:

Agencies% of Cases With Errors
Department of Energy42
Department of Agriculture36
Department of Justice33
Department of Homeland Security32
Department of Defense28

These agencies had the fewest last month:

Agency% of Cases With Errors
United States Postal Service8
Social Security Administration14
Joint Payroll Office18
Department of Veterans Affairs20
National Aeronautics and Space Administration20

The governmentwide error rate was 23% in June.

OPM Retirement Backlog Processing Status – June 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 38 days to
complete; whereas cases that were produced in more than 60 days, on average, took 126
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.