A budget document from OPM lays out plans to address long-running criticisms of how long the agency takes to process retirement applications—when new retirees receive only partial benefits, commonly for several months and in many cases much longer—and the level of customer service it provides during that time and afterward.
“OPM understands the imperative to create a modern retirement experience for employees who have earned these benefits over a career of serving the American public. Based on past efforts, OPM appreciates the importance of implementing both successful and incremental modernization improvements to retirement benefits,” it says.
It says the main areas of focus will be the customer service contact center; digitizing retirement records; and digital file management.
“OPM plans to expand the contact center and explore new features such as multimodal communications, automated inquiries, and call-back capabilities that aim to reduce call wait times and increase the quality of customers experience by the end of FY 2023,” it says.
“In 2023, OPM will also explore alternatives to the current paper-centric process by piloting a digital retirement system that will allow Federal employees to retire completely online. OPM hopes to learn from the process of deploying this system. This will allow OPM to begin to centralize the retirement process, which has historically been fragmented across the government.
Once centralized, OPM envisions one day having a system that will create an online profile for individuals by which OPM can communicate the status of an individual’s case from submission, all the way through tax season each year they receive an annuity. These enhancements will be a significant improvement to the retirement experience, as they will consolidate the numerous touchpoints an annuitant may have into a single place.
“Further, in concert with the digital retirement improvements, OPM will also explore consolidating digital file management into a single system. This effort has previously been called case management. The desired solution will serve as the foundation for an OPM-wide solution.”
OPM has a long history of efforts in those areas, including both technological and people-focused initiatives. However, retirement processing and customer service remain focal points of complaints from individual retirees, employee and retiree organizations and members of Congress active in civil service issues—as well as the subject of critical reports from OPM’s own inspector general office in recent years.