The retirement claims backlog continued to drop incrementally in September, according to the latest statistics from the Office of Personnel Management.
OPM received 6,350 new retirement applications in September, 950 less than expected. The backlog is now at 12,767 claims -- 330 fewer claims than in August. OPM reported that the percent of retirement claims processed in 60 days or less increased between August and September, rising from 78.5 percent to 82.3 percent.
The agency missed its target last month for number of retirement claims processed, completing 6,680 applications compared to a goal of 8,000 claims.
OPM has made steady progress since February on reducing the inventory of retirement claims, decreasing the backlog by 46 percent in that time. In June, the agency had reduced the backlog to 12,391 applications – the lowest point in years. And although the backlog was higher in September than it was in June, it is still lower than what OPM projected it would be by this time. The agency set a goal of 13,142 retirement claims pending for last month, beating that target by 375 claims.
It’s unlikely at this point that OPM will eliminate the decades-old backlog by the end of the year. OPM originally attempted to eliminate the backlog by the summer of 2013, but sequestration forced the agency to scale back its ambitions. The agency expects an influx of 19,000 new retirement applications in January 2015, which it estimates will increase the retirement backlog to 21,642 claims at the start of next year.
In March, a bipartisan group of senators blasted OPM for wasting taxpayer dollars by continuing to use an outdated system to process claims. The lawmakers wrote a letter to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta after The Washington Post published a scathing report on the inefficiencies of the agency’s claims processing.
Clearing up the retirement claims backlog has been an ongoing struggle for OPM and a constant source of frustration for federal retirees and members of Congress who are hearing lots of complaints from their constituents.
The following chart shows OPM's progress on reducing the backlog over the past 12 months.
(Image via qvist/Shutterstock.com)