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Federal Retirement Claims Continue to Surge in March, But Backlog Is Down

The annual spike in claims bled into a third month this year, after the 35-day partial government shutdown delayed the filing and processing of new retirement requests.

The Office of Personnel Management reported last week that the annual surge in retirements, traditionally reserved for January and February, crept into March this year, although the agency has managed to reduce the backlog of claims.

Last month, 10,048 federal employees applied for retirement, an increase over the 7,767 claims received by OPM for the same period last year. Traditionally, there is a spike in retirement claims in January and February every year, but the pace slows down beginning in March.

Despite the extended retirement surge, OPM increased the number of claims that it processed last month to 13,217, up from 10,543 in February. That led to a reduction in the retirement backlog from 23,370 in February to 20,201 last month. But that number is up from March 2018, when the backlog sat at 18,730 claims.

Overall in 2019, the number of retirement claims is slightly down from the same period last year. So far this year, OPM has received 34,104 new retirement claims, compared to 35,617 over the first three months of 2018.

During the 35-day partial government shutdown, OPM and unfunded agencies’ HR departments were closed, effectively delaying the retirement of employees who had not scheduled their last day before the lapse in appropriations began last December.