10 Numbers That Tell the Story of Retirement Processing

They range from 30 to 1 trillion.

If you’re planning to retire at the end of this year, or are just curious about what happens to your application when the time comes, you’re probably interested in retirement processing. During the summer, I dedicated two columns to this topic: 3, 2, 1...Retire! And What Happens to Your Retirement Paperwork. Later I wrote about a field trip I took to Boyers, Pennsylvania, to see firsthand how the Office of Personnel Management handles retirement applications. 

A federal retirement application is still completed on a paper form, like it was in 1920 when civilian employees first were provided retirement benefits. But advancements now allow the information on the form to be passed to OPM electronically so that your retirement can be completed more accurately and efficiently.

Thanks to modernization, according to Ken Zawodny, OPM’s associate director for retirement services, 74 percent of non-disability retirement claims are currently processed in 44 days or less. Although there are still cardboard folders, paper fasteners and metal file cabinets all over OPM’s Retirement Operations Center, and full automation of the retirement claims process is still in the future, Zawodny is proud that OPM has incorporated Lean Six Sigma production management concepts in order to streamline retirement processes.

One way to shed light on retirement processing is to look at at some facts and figures:


The rough percentage of retirement claims that have a deposit or redeposit, which means money is owed to the retirement fund in order to credit a period of service towards eligibility and/or computation of a retirement benefit—or in some cases, to avoid a reduction to the benefit. Before final processing, the new retiree is given an opportunity to pay unpaid deposits or redeposits.


The percentage of new retirement claims that are submitted via the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. Another 30% come from the Postal Service, along with 15% from the National Finance Center, 8% from the Interior Department Business Center, and 4% from the General Services Administration. The rest come from smaller independent payroll offices.


The percentage of new retirement claims placed in interim pay status immediately. Interim pay is generally equal to 80% of your basic retirement benefit and is paid to you while your claim is being finalized. There are some situations in which the figure is lower than 80%.


The number of data elements electronically transmitted from your payroll system to OPM’s Retirement Operations Center when your application is submitted. This allows OPM to immediately begin processing your retirement claim. 


The percentage of new retirement claims that are Federal Employees Retirement System applications. Just five years ago, claims were split about evenly between FERS and the Civil Service Retirement System.


The age at which a retiree's records are no longer retained. Records of those whose date of birth is 1904 or earlier are destroyed.


The approximate number of retirees who reach age 100 every month. These folks receive a letter in the mail from OPM upon reaching this milestone.


The approximate size of OPM’s retirement operations staff: about 500 employees at the Retirement Operations Center in Pennsylvania, 150 at a call center (also in Pennsylvania), and 300 in Washington.


The approximate number of CSRS employees left in federal employment. 

1 trillion

The dollar value of combined assets for retirement, health benefits and life insurance programs for federal employees that OPM oversees.