Expert's View

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Reg Jones

Whether you have just retired or are planning to do so, you need to know what happens after you submit your retirement application.

If your agency meets the processing standards set by OPM, your application – fingers crossed – will move through your agency’s personnel and payroll offices in 30 days or less. However, an end-of-year bulge of applications, plus staffing shortages in your agency personnel and payroll offices caused by COVID-related illnesses and use-or-lose annual leave, may cause that deadline to slip.

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Regardless of how long it takes, your agency should notify you when your retirement package is on its way to OPM. When OPM gets your retirement package, it will send you a written acknowledgment. That acknowledgement will include your retirement claim number, preceded by the letters CSA (shorthand for Civil Service Annuitant).

If OPM determines that you meet the age and service requirements to retire, it will authorize interim annuity payments, which will provide you with some income to keep you afloat. Those interim payments will be less than the full amount to avoid the possibility of overpayment and the need to collect the excess when your case is finalized.

OPM tries to authorize interim payments within 10 days after it receives your retirement package. If everything goes smoothly, you’ll usually receive your first interim payment within three to four weeks after you retire.

If there are any issues to be resolved about your retirement application, for example, the creditability of certain periods of service, you may have to provide additional documentation. Assuming that there aren’t any issues, your regular annuity amount will be calculated and payment authorized.

How long will that take? Brace yourself. The average processing time for 2021 is 88 days—three months. Of those processed in less than 60 days—that is, the simpler ones—the average time was 40 days. For those taking 60 days or more, the average was 104 days.

Remember, those are averages. It’s not unusual to hear of federal employees waiting six months or longer. Also remember that the bulge of year-end retirements means a longer than average wait.

Once that final calculation is made, any money you are owed from when you were receiving interim pay will be included in your first regular annuity payment. At the same time, OPM will send you an Annuity Statement and other informational material concerning your retirement benefits.

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If you have any questions about the status of your retirement application after it has reached OPM, call their Retirement Information Office at 1-888-767-6738, TDD 1-800-878-5707. Have that CSA number handy and be prepared to wait there, too.

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