The retirement claims backlog dipped slightly in August, as the Office of Personnel Management processed its highest total of applications in three months.
OPM received 8,702 retirement applications last month, and processed 9,225. The backlog of outstanding claims dropped by about 500 to 13,097.
The human resources agency surpassed its goal of processing 8,000 claims in August, despite receiving 18 percent more applications than it expected. OPM processed about 79 percent of claims within 60 days, the highest ratio it has achieved since it started measuring the statistic in May.
The backlog reduction came after the pile grew slightly in July. OPM has generally made great strides in processing claims in 2014, reducing the number of outstanding applications by 44 percent since February. The backlog has been cut by 71 percent since mid-2012. The agency easily cleared its goal of cutting the backlog to 13,842 claims by the end of August.
At the current rate, OPM will once again fall short of eliminating the decades-old backlog by the end of the year. The agency projects it will maintain a backlog of more than 11,000 in one year. OPM originally attempted to eliminate the backlog by the summer of 2013, but sequestration forced officials to scale back their ambitions.
In March, a bipartisan group of senators blasted OPM for wasting taxpayer dollars by continuing to use an outdated system to process claims.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.
Archuleta has admitted the agency remains partially paper based, but said it “has begun a gradual transition to a fully digital process.” In the “strategic information technology plan” released earlier this year, OPM promised to move the agency away from old-fashioned 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 to date:
(Image via qvist / Shutterstock.com)