During 2013 OPM cut its backlog of retirement applications about in half but due to the surge of retirements around the turn of the year, it won’t get back even to the year-end 2013 level until around the middle of this year.
OPM reports monthly on its efforts to reduce the long-standing backlog, and says that average processing time is now three months, compared with an average of five months two years ago. However, that is only an average, and in some cases new retirees wait many months, and sometimes more than a year, to receive their full retirement benefits.
In the meantime they receive interim payments that average about 80 percent of their entitlement. However, in some cases those payments are far less than that amount. They receive a makeup payment to square accounts once a benefit is adjudicated finally.
OPM’s monthly data reflect the number of applications it receives each month. There is a lag time that can be several weeks or more between when an employee files for retirement and when the employing agency completes its administrative tasks and forwards the application to OPM.
Through December 2013, more than 12,600 cases were pending at OPM, compared with 26,400 a year earlier. However, due to the surge of retirements around the turn of the year, OPM expects to receive much higher than average monthly numbers of applications in the early part of this year.
OPM projects it will be able to process 11,500 claims a month in the early part of the year, although in practice it has not been able to process that many in any month since last March. The processing rate dropped off mid-year last year when OPM had to cut back on overtime in the processing branch due to sequestration, forcing the agency to abandon what had been its goal of eliminating the backlog by mid-year 2013.
Under its latest projections, even if OPM were to meet its monthly processing goals—and it didn’t in any month for the last eight months of 2013—it will not be current until June.