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OPM Slowly Makes Up Lost Ground on the Retirement Claims Backlog

Inventory falls again for the second month in a row, but still exceeds levels toward the end of 2013.

The backlog of federal retirement claims waiting to be processed fell slightly in April for the second month in a row, but it still remains higher than it was at the end of 2013, according to the latest numbers from the Office of Personnel Management.

OPM processed 10,002 applications last month, bringing the claims backlog down 10.5 percent to 16,618. That still leaves a larger pile of pending claims than in October 2013, when the inventory stood at 14,176. Claims surged in January and February, fueling the increase in the backlog that OPM is now slowly digging out of.

Even in April, OPM received more claims than it had anticipated. The agency projected it would get 6,500 applications, but actually received 8,047. OPM still reduced the backlog by several hundred more claims than its target level for April.

The latest progress follows some negative press for OPM’s retirement processing. The Washington Post in March published a scathing investigative report on inefficiencies in the system, prompting a bipartisan group of senators to demand more information on steps OPM is taking to modernize the process.

OPM originally attempted to eliminate the backlog by the summer of 2013, but sequestration forced the agency to scale back its ambitions.

As of February, the typical federal retiree waited 61 days for his or her claim to be processed, according to OPM. That is down from 91 days last July and 156 days in December 2011, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta noted in a March blog post. But the senators who demanded more information on retirement modernization efforts said that 61 days is still no faster than processing times in 1977.  

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