The number of new retirement applications continues to exceed the government’s estimates, according to the latest data from the Office of Personnel Management.
OPM received 10,183 new claims in March, more than double the 5,000 applications the agency expected to come in last month. Still, OPM managed to reduce the claims backlog by 11 percent between February and March, processing 14,683 claims during that time. The backlog now stands at 36,603 retirement claims -- a 40 percent reduction since January 2012, but a 1.5 percent increase from January 2013.
OPM hopes to have the retirement claims backlog largely eliminated by the end of 2013, but that could prove difficult if the unexpected influx of new applications continues during the spring and summer. OPM significantly underestimated the number of new claims in February, expecting 5,600 claims but actually receiving 20,374 applications.
New applications usually pour in at the end and beginning of every year. In January, OPM received 22,187 such claims, about what the agency expected for that month. But February 2013 marked a 218 percent increase in new filings over February 2012, when OPM received 6,415 claims for the month. OPM received 44 percent more retirement claims in March 2013 than in March 2012, the agency’s statistics showed.
Ongoing budget uncertainty in agencies as well as federal employees’ fears over reduced pay and benefits could be factors in the retirement spike. Human resources experts and other government observers have predicted a federal “retirement tsunami” for at least a decade that has not fully materialized yet.
Many federal retirees still wait several months, and sometimes years, for their applications to be fully and correctly processed. OPM administers benefits for 2.5 million federal retirees and processes about 100,000 new claims annually.