Over the last two weeks, I’ve written about your role in planning for retirement and your agency’s role in moving your paperwork forward to OPM. This time I’ll describe OPM’s role. While the steps OPM takes haven’t changed much, the time it needs to complete its work and provide you with your final annuity have stretched out to the point that Congressional hearings have been held to find out what’s going on.

As I see it, there are four things at the root of the problem: flawed retirement applications, too few staff member to process them at OPM, the complexity of the retirement laws, and antiquated software. While things are slowly getting better, an end of year rush by employees wanting to retire could create a logjam.

If your retirement application has cleared your agency’s personnel and payroll offices within 30 days, you well are on the way to being placed on the annuity roll. However, be aware that staffing shortages or an excess workload in your agency may slow that process.

Until your retirement package leaves your agency, you’ll have to refer any questions about its status to your former personnel or payroll office. Most agency payroll offices notify former employees when their retirement package has been sent to OPM. If your agency doesn’t do that, you’ll have to follow up with them.

Once your retirement file has cleared your agency, it is sent to OPM. When it arrives, you’ll be sent a written acknowledgment and provided with a retirement claim number, preceded by the letters CSA, which is shorthand for Civil Service Annuitant.

If an initial review of your file proves that you are entitled to an annuity, OPM will authorize an interim annuity payment. This will provide you with a monthly income while your claim is being processed. Note: There has been a lot of criticism about the size of that interim payment, which many consider to be too low to live on, especially if they drag on for months.

Anyhow, once OPM has completed processing your application, your regular annuity amount will be calculated and your first regular annuity payment authorized and paid by the Treasury Department. Any money you are owed from being in interim pay status will be included in that payment.

Separately, OPM will send you an Annuity Statement and other information about your retirement benefits. Please keep this statement in a safe place. If you ever apply for a home mortgage or some other large loan, you’ll be asked to provide a copy to the lender as a proof of your entitlement to an annuity.