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Retirement Claims Backlog Dips in March

OPM makes some progress after influx of new applications hits a high in February.

The retirement claims backlog fell 14 percent between February and March, and the Office of Personnel Management is processing applications a bit faster, according to the latest agency data.

The backlog, which hit an 18-month high of 24,014 claims in February, dropped to 20,594 claims in March. OPM reported that it processed 82 percent of claims in 60 days or less last month, compared to 81 percent for that time frame in February. The backlog now is at its lowest level in three months, since December 2014 when it was at 11,669 claims. At that time, the agency was processing 84 percent of its retirement claims in 60 days or less.

Retirement claims typically spike in January, and then settle to lower levels for the rest of the year. OPM received fewer new claims – 5,478 – in March than it expected. The agency saw an influx of 18,629 new applications in January, which dropped to 9,219 new claims in February. In March, OPM processed 8,898 claims, 2,102 fewer than it expected to complete, but 1,057 more claims than in February.

The agency expects to cut the backlog in April by 6,552 claims, down to 14,042, and hopes to slash it to around 11,000 by the end of September.

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 hear lots of complaints from their constituents. OPM originally attempted to eliminate the backlog by the summer of 2013, but sequestration forced the agency to scale back its ambitions.

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