The OPM retirement backlog grew in October after setting a record low in September.
The total number of outstanding retirement claims at the Office of Personnel Management grew from 15,852 at the end of September to 16,678 at the end of October, a 5.2% increase.
The key factor in the increase appears to be that fewer claims were processed in October than in September. OPM processed 6,098 retirement claims last month but was able to process 8,879 in September, a 45.6% difference. The monthly average processing time for cases also increased, going from 70 to 73 days.
More retirement claims were also received during October than in September, however, the difference was relatively small. OPM received 6,924 new claims last month and 6,768 in September, a difference of 2.3%.
Retirement Application Errors by Agency – October 2023
OPM reports which federal agencies collectively have the most and fewest errors on retirement applications during the month. The listings are for error rates for agencies with at least 15 cases reviewed during the month.
|Agency||# of Cases||% of Cases w/ Errors|
|DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE – USDA||112||27|
|DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY – DHS||216||25|
|DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY||146||25|
|DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE – DOC||44||25|
|DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE – All DOD||1,337||23|
|DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE – DOJ||163||23|
|DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR – DOI||102||22|
|DEPARTMENT OF LABOR – DOL||18||22|
|DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES – DHHS||70||21|
|DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS – VA||487||20|
|DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION||82||17|
|ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY – EPA||22||14|
|ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE US COURTS – AOUSC||47||11|
|BUREAU OF THE FISCAL SERVICE – BFS (formerly BPD)||19||11|
|GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION – GSA||19||11|
|SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION – SSA||58||10|
|NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION – NASA||21||10|
|UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE – USPS||1,069||8|
|DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY||15||7|
|JOINT PAYROLL OFFICE||39||5|
Preparing for the Annual Retirement Wave
OPM is preparing for the year-end surge in retirement applications that always hits at the end of a calendar year. At the end of 2022, for example, the OPM retirement backlog grew by 15%.
OPM Director Kiran Ahuja is asking for help from federal agencies to ensure that incoming retirement applications are free from errors before they are sent to OPM and that errors are addressed in a timely fashion. Errors in applications are the primary driver that causes delays in getting federal employees’ retirement applications processed quickly.
In a memo sent to agency leaders, Ahuja wrote:
As OPM Director, I am requesting your agency’s assistance in this process. On average, more than a quarter of all applications submitted to OPM for adjudication are submitted with errors that delay annuitants’ receipt of their full retirement annuity. The best way to reduce these delays is to ensure that applications are free from errors before they are submitted to OPM, and for agencies, payroll providers, and OPM’s Retirement Services to work closely to address questions and errors in a timely manner. OPM developed its monthly error report as a starting place for such discussion and collaboration.
To help prepare, Ahuja asked agencies to:
- Provide estimates on the number of retirement application packages each agency expects to submit to OPM from December 2023 to March 2024
- Set up an internal quality control process to review each retirement application before it is sent to OPM
- Encourage agency HR staff to join OPM Retirement Services at its operations center in Boyers, PA to participate in processing retirement applications during the surge period (January to March)
- Ask HR staff to read and share OPM’s Retirement Quick Guide with agency employees
OPM released the Retirement Quick Guide in May. It is designed to help clarify the federal retirement process for federal employees and facilitate submitting complete and accurate retirement applications which ultimately helps to alleviate processing delays.
OPM Retirement Backlog Processing Status – October 2023
|Month||Claims Received||Claims Processed||Inventory (Steady state goal is 13,000)||Monthly Average Processing Time in Days||FYTD 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 113 days to complete.