The Office of Personnel Management more than doubled the number of retirement claims it processed last month when compared with November, as the agency prepared for an annual surge of new requests.
In recent months, the number of retirement claims processed by OPM had waned because, officials said last year, staff members were preparing for the influx of claims that occurs each January. The agency also lacked funding to pay for overtime while operating under short-term continuing resolutions.
But in December, the agency significantly ramped up its processing efforts, completing 10,347 claims. That’s more than double the 5,138 retirement requests OPM processed in the previous month, and the most in a single month since March 2017.
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That uptick, combined with the relatively low 5,568 new retirement claims received last month, made a significant dent in the retirement backlog, bringing that number down to 14,515. OPM’s target “steady state” backlog number is 13,000.
The percentage of claims processed within 60 days also rose substantially, increasing 10 points from 57 percent in November to 67 percent last month.
OPM also noted in its monthly report that it is changing how it measures the success of its retirement processing efforts. Until now, the agency has provided data on the percentage of claims processed within 60 days, as well as the average number of days it takes to process a case both within 60 days and beyond 60 days.
Beginning in April, OPM will provide the raw numbers, as well as the average processing time on both monthly and fiscal-year-to-date bases.
For instance, under the new reporting, the average processing time on a monthly basis dropped from 68 days in November to 60 days last month. So far in fiscal 2018, which began Oct. 1, the average time OPM took to process a claim was 63 days, which is down three days from the 66 reported in November.
January is typically an extremely busy time for OPM when it comes to retirement claims. In January 2017, the agency received 15,317 new requests, and in January 2016, 15,423 feds applied for retirement.