Reg Jones Expert's View

Over the latter weeks of 2020, I wrote a series of columns about preparing for retirement, since there always is a spike—for reasons I detailed then—in retirements around the turn of the year.

One question that arises almost immediately and almost invariably after someone retires is, “When do I get my money?”

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Under normal circumstances, your agency would have met OPM’s processing standards and your retirement application would have moved through your agency’s personnel and payroll offices in 30 days or less. However, staffing shortages in your agency personnel and payroll offices due to COVID-19 (and a backlog of retirement applications) may have caused that deadline to slip.

Your agency should notify you when your retirement package is sent to OPM. And once OPM gets your retirement package, it will send you a written acknowledgment that includes your retirement claim number, preceded by the letters CSA (Civil Service Annuitant).

If you meet the age and service requirements to retire, OPM will authorize interim annuity payments. While that payment won’t be for the full amount, it will provide you with some income to tide you over until your claim is finalized.

OPM tries to authorize interim payments within 10 days after it receives your retirement package. The ideal schedule would have you receiving your first interim payment within three to four weeks after you retire, in an amount of about 80 percent of a rough estimate of your actual entitlement. However, it may take longer and the amount may be lower.

Assuming that there aren’t any issues with your application that need to be resolved, your regular annuity amount then will be calculated and payment authorized. Any money you are owed from when you were in interim pay status will be included in your first regular annuity payment.

When will that be? Well, OPM has had a backlog for many years and over the last year, average processing time has ranged from about 60 days to about 90 days. It also reports those numbers in kind of an odd way by breaking them into two separate buckets, those processed in less than 60 days and those that take longer. The average for the first category is 46 days and for the second 111 days.

Those are averages, remember, which means that for some people the wait is much longer—especially so for turn-of-the-year retirees since the backlog spikes every year along with the spike in application. Months longer, potentially, if there are questions or issues to be resolved. That’s why my prior columns emphasized the importance of the preparations you must make before you submit your application.

If you have any questions about the status of your retirement application after it has reached OPM, call their Retirement Information Office at (888) 767-6738, TDD (800) 878-5707.

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