The federal retirement claims backlog spiked 37 percent during the last month, due to an expected influx of new applications, according to the latest figures from the Office of Personnel Management.
The agency’s backlog at the end of January stood at 36,062 claims, up from 26,402 claims at the end of 2012. OPM received 22,187 new retirement applications in January alone, 1,187 more than it expected to take in. By contrast the agency received 5,152 applications in December 2012.
New applications usually pour in at the end and beginning of every year. Despite January’s influx of claims, OPM actually processed 12,527 applications –the most since September, when the agency processed 12,563 claims. The agency expected a slightly higher backlog -- 38,978 claims -- by the end of January 2013, so by its own estimates OPM is ahead of schedule in clearing the claims queue. OPM expects the claims backlog to be 33,078 by the end of February.
The backlog decreased 41 percent between January 2012 and January 2013.
Despite the slow and steady progress OPM has made tackling the backlog, many federal retirees still wait several months, and sometimes years, for their applications to be fully or correctly processed. OPM administers benefits for 2.5 million federal retirees and processes about 100,000 new claims annually.