Reg Jones Expert's View

Years ago, when an agency submitted an employee’s retirement paperwork, it took OPM a long time to begin paying that retiree’s annuity. Further, on more careful review of the paperwork, it often turned out that OPM had overpaid the retiree and had to collect the overpayment. That was something an insult added to injury to the retirees and in many cases it was financially hard on them.

As a result, OPM implemented a new system that still is in place today. Here’s how it works.

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If your agency meets the processing standards set by OPM, your retirement application will move through your agency’s personnel and payroll offices in 30 days or less. That’s the ideal. However, staffing shortages in your agency personnel and payroll offices (or a backlog of retirement applications) may cause that deadline to slip.

Your agency should notify you when your retirement package is sent to OPM. Once OPM gets your retirement package, it will send you a written acknowledgment that includes your retirement claim number, preceded by the letters CSA. That’s shorthand for Civil Service Annuitant.

If OPM is satisfied that you meet the age and service requirements to retire, it will authorize interim annuity payments. While it will be less than the full amount—commonly around 80 percent of what the benefit would be at first look, although it often turns out to be lower—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. If everything works smoothly, you’ll usually receive your first interim payment within three to four weeks after you retire.

Why doesn’t OPM pay the full first-glance amount as an interim payment? Because OPM doesn’t want to get back into the business of trying to collect overpayments. On closer look, it may turn out that there are issues to be resolved, for example the creditability of certain periods of service.

Assuming that there aren’t any issues (or that they have been resolved), your regular annuity amount 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. At the same time, OPM will send you an Annuity Statement and other informational material concerning your retirement benefits.