Senators express frustration over OPM backlog of retirement claims

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. Charlie Neibergall/AP

This article has been updated to include a comment from the Office of Management and Budget.

Three senators from states with high volumes of federal retirees wrote to Office of Management and Budget acting Director Jeffrey Zients on Monday to express their displeasure with the retirement benefits backlog at the Office of Personnel Management.

The letter was organized by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and co-signed by Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., in response to a Feb. 1 congressional hearing in which OPM Director John Berry was called to explain the backlog of nearly 50,000 claims at the end of 2011.

“After looking into this issue, we were deeply concerned to learn that this appears to be a vast, ongoing and systemic problem,” the letter stated.

Moira Mack, OMB spokeswoman, said, “Director Berry has stated that resolving this issue is his top priority for 2012.  OMB agrees with OPM that the status quo is unacceptable and we are working closely with Director Berry to make sure all necessary steps are taken.”

Virginia and Maryland are home to more than 250,000 federal retirees, and the senators have heard from many frustrated constituents. Even though Warner is not a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee, which conducted the Feb. 1 hearing on the issue, he still attended the event.

The senators said in the letter that they wanted OPM to submit to Congress a report on all federal agencies that have filed inaccurate or incomplete information about retirees. They also wanted OPM to submit monthly updates to Congress and work with OMB to develop a more efficient retirement processing system, using available technology, to be implemented by fiscal 2014.

OPM, which has drawn criticism since 1987 over its retirement processing, takes an average of 156 days to complete a claim, but many retirees wait a year or more for their payments.

Berry stated during the hearing that OPM expected to address the delays by hiring more personnel.

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