The Office of Personnel Management received fewer retirement claims in April than expected, after a spike in applications submitted during the first three months of 2012.
OPM received 6,616 claims last month -- 1,384 less than the 8,000 claims expected and 474 less than the number the agency received in March. The slowdown likely helped OPM chip away at its 50,000-plus backlog of claims: The backlog currently stands at 51,016 claims, down 1,258 from March. Since January, the backlog is down 17 percent from 61,108 claims. The agency projected it would have a backlog of 55,078 claims in April, so by those measures, OPM is ahead of the game.
OPM released the latest statistics Thursday.
The agency slightly overestimated the number of claims it projected it would process in April -- 8,028 actual claims completed versus a target of 8,300 claims. Since January, OPM has received 41,600 retirement claims. It began 2012 with a backlog of 48,378 claims.
OPM administers benefits for 2.5 million federal retirees and processes about 100,000 new claims annually. Director John Berry has said eliminating the backlog is his highest priority in 2012. Earlier this year, OPM unveiled a plan that aims to get rid of the claims backlog within 18 months and to reduce processing times so that 90 percent of claims are administered within two months of receipt.
Lawmakers asked OPM in February to report monthly on the status of the backlog.
Processing retirement claims, particularly disability claims, can be complex and time-consuming, and OPM relies heavily on other federal agencies to provide retirees' information, including the amount of their annuity. The agency uses more than 500 different procedures, laws and regulations to address retirement applications.