FEDweek

Review Sought of Retirement Applications Processing

The bipartisan leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have asked GAO to examine the processing of federal retirement applications, a long-running issue. Despite numerous reform efforts over the years, waits in some cases stretch for many months until OPM makes a final determination on benefits. As of September, for example, OPM finalized only 64 percent of applications within 60 days of receiving them—its goal is 90 percent—and for the rest, the average processing time was 100 days. During the waiting time, only “interim” payments—of an amount below a first-glance estimate, with the difference made up later—are made. Those payments average about 80 percent of the final amount but in some cases are much lower. The committee’s letter to GAO adds that not all of the problem lies at OPM; employing agencies must send OPM certain information on the employee–which commonly takes several weeks or longer, a delay that is in addition to the processing time at OPM—and that information sometimes contains errors, it said. GAO was asked to review OPM guidance to agencies on passing along information, why certain agencies have especially high rates of error—it named SSA, VA, Interior and Agriculture—and what OPM, agencies and Congress could do to improve the process. “Our federal workforce deserves a transition to retirement that is efficient, timely and uncomplicated,” the letter said.