OPM Retirement Backlog Grows in July

The OPM retirement backlog grew in July off of the six-year low it achieved during the previous month.

The OPM retirement backlog regressed somewhat in July after falling to a six-year low in June 2023.

The latest data from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) show that the backlog of outstanding retirement claims now stands at 17,047, 4.1% higher than at the end of June. The number of incoming claims was much higher in July than in June, 7,261 versus 4,854, respectively, a difference of 50%. Although OPM still processed nearly the same number of claims in July (6,584) as in June (6,609), this served to drive the backlog higher.

Another contributing factor was that the monthly average processing time was higher in July than in June. It took OPM 85 days on average in July to process retirement applications versus 74 days in June. July was the second-highest monthly average processing time so far in 2023, second only to January (93 days).

So far in 2023, the monthly average and median figures for the OPM retirement backlog break down as follows:

Claims ReceivedClaims ProcessedInventoryMonthly Average Processing Time in DaysFYTD Average Processing Time in Days

The video slideshow on this page includes the federal agencies with the most and fewest errors on their submitted retirement applications along with other summary data on the retirement backlog.

How Has the OPM Retirement Backlog Fared in July?

The number of federal employees who retired in July 2023 is considerably fewer than during any of the past five years. The current backlog is also among the lowest points in that time period.

Claims ReceivedClaims ProcessedInventory
July 20237,2616,58417,047
July 20229,48710,70615,828
July 20218,9226,92027,001
July 20206,8196,62017,631
July 20198,0008,08818,413

Will There Be an Online Retirement Application System in the Future?

Should federal employees expect to see a new retirement application processing system at some point? If recent reports are any indication, this may come in the future.

A letter sent from Congressional lawmakers in April to OPM Director Kiran Ahuja alluded to something the agency was working on described as a new “initiative to modernize the [retirement] application process.”

One of the questions the lawmakers asked OPM in the letter mentioned a “pilot digital retirement system” which said had “already been rolled out.” The lawmakers wanted to know how many federal retirees had been served by the pilot, what the agency’s plans were to expand the program, and the cost of implementing a digital retirement application system.

Another recent report offers more details about how this new digital retirement processing system is perhaps starting to unfold.

FedScoop reported that OPM plans to conduct a four-month trial of a new online retirement system later this year based on a letter it obtained that Ahuja sent to lawmakers. The trial would be conducted at the National Finance Center, a branch of the Department of Agriculture. OPM said it would determine the next steps to expand the program based on the outcome of the pilot.

As to the agency’s purpose, the NFC website states:

The National Finance Center (NFC) is a Shared Service Provider for Financial Management Services and Human Resources Management Services. We are well-positioned to assist your Agency in achieving cost-effective, standardized, and interoperable solutions that provide functionality to support your strategic financial management and human resource management direction.

FedScoop also added, “…OPM said that plans for an online retirement application platform — considered a first step in reforming a still largely paper-based system — are expected at the end of this year.”

OPM has tried in the past to modernize its retirement application processing system with no success.

OPM Retirement Backlog Processing Status – July 2023

MonthClaims ReceivedClaims ProcessedInventory (Steady state goal is 13,000)Monthly Average Processing Time in DaysFYTD Average Processing Time in Days

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.