Federal employees retired in droves in January, causing the claims backlog at the Office of Personnel Management to balloon.
North of 17,000 workers filed retirement claims with OPM last month, more than tripling the total from December. Still, the agency received 2,617 fewer claims than it expected to in January. Feds typically retire in much higher volumes at the beginning of each year, with more than 22,000 filing claims in January 2013.
OPM’s backlog skyrocketed to 21,296 claims, the first time it surged above 20,000 claims since August. The agency processed 8,724 claims in January, an improvement over the roughly 6,400 applications it processed in December, but well short of the 11,500 claims it expected to complete.
Still, OPM remained on track with its projected backlog total, which it predicted would increase to 21,442 claims in January.
The agency hopes to clear up the backlog to a “consistent workload” by March 2014 -- roughly seven months later than the original target date of July 2013. By May 2014, OPM projects a backlog of 13,042 claims. The average processing time for a claim is now around 91 days, down from about 156 days in February 2012.