The federal retirement backlog just hit another recent record low
The Office of Personnel Management’s inventory of pending retirement claims from former federal workers reached its lowest level since 2017 for the second time this year.
The federal government’s backlog of pending retirement claims from former federal workers hit a six-year low for the second time this year in September.
The Office of Personnel Management reported Thursday that its retirement backlog fell to 15,852 pending cases at the end of last month, the lowest it has been since the inventory briefly fell to around 14,000 claims in 2017. OPM’s goal is a “steady state” of 13,000 pending retirement claims at any given time.
Last month’s figure shatters the previous six-year record—16,370—that the agency achieved in June. The retirement backlog has fallen in six of the last nine months.
Last month, OPM also saw improvement in its statistics measuring the average amount of time it takes the agency to process a retirement claim. On a monthly basis, the average processing time fell from 74 days in August to 70 last month, while the average time for fiscal 2023 was 77 days.
The retirement backlog has long been a pain point for the HR agency, as it has sought to develop a plan to make the retirement process less paper-based. Those woes were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the backlog reaching a high of more than 36,000 pending claims in March 2022.
Last month, OPM published its long-awaited IT strategic plan, which, among other things, prioritizes modernizing the retirement process. Between now and 2026, the agency will pilot a “digital retirement system” as well as move to electronic retirement records and an online retirement application process.
But in the meantime, officials have focused on ways to make the retirement process more transparent for federal workers, as well as educate them on how to properly apply for retirement, since human error during the application process is the No. 1 cause of delays in processing a claim.
Last May, OPM published a new “quick guide” to navigating the federal retirement process, including a breakdown of what agencies are responsible for which phase of the process, a checklist of steps federal workers can take to ensure their retirement claim is processed quickly, as well as an estimated timeline for each step in the process, updated on a monthly basis.