Retirement claims backlog falls 57 percent in 2012

Slow December provides a lull before an expected influx of applications this month.

The federal retirement claims backlog fell 57 percent from January 2012 to December 2012, according to the latest figures from the Office of Personnel Management.

The inventory now stands at 26,402 retirement claims, down from 61,108 claims in January 2012. OPM reported that it has 10 percent fewer pending claims than it estimated it would have heading into 2013, and 45 percent less than the agency had in the queue in December 2011.

The agency received the smallest number of 2012 retirement claims in December -- a brief reprieve before an expected influx of applications in January. New applications usually pour in at the end and beginning of every year.

OPM received 5,152 new retirement applications last month, 1,848 fewer than expected and the smallest monthly number submitted in 2012. Overall the agency processed 10,454 retirement claims in December, falling short of its goal of 11,500 completed applications for the month. It’s still on track to eliminate the decades-long backlog in 2013.

That backlog is likely to creep up temporarily by the end of this month, however. January is typically a very popular time to submit retirement applications, and OPM anticipates it will receive 21,000 new applications this month. The agency projects that its backlog will be 38,978 claims by the end of January.

Despite the slow and steady progress OPM has made tackling the backlog, many federal retirees still wait several months for their applications to be fully processed. OPM administers benefits for 2.5 million federal retirees and processes about 100,000 new claims annually.