Nearly 9,000 federal employees applied for retirement in August — the most since January, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
So far this year, 74,725 federal employees have applied for retirement. That is nearly 2 percent more than the 73,585 employees who applied for retirement in the first eight months of 2011.
By the end of 2011, federal retirements had increased 24 percent over the previous year.
OPM received 8,973 retirement claims in August — 12 percent more than the 8,000 it expected last month, and nearly 15 percent more than retired in August 2011. August had the second-highest number of retirements in 2012, second only to January, which traditionally records a massive number of retirements each year.
But even though retirements are increasing, OPM was able to keep its processing rate up last month and cut its backlog of unprocessed claims from 44,679 to 41,787 — a 6 percent decrease.
OPM processed 11,865 claims in August. That is a decrease from July’s 12,304 claims processed, but still above the 11,500 claims OPM expected to process last month. And August was the third most-productive processing month this year.
OPM earlier this year enacted several reforms to try to fix its sluggish pension processing system. Those changes included hiring and training 56 new legal administrative specialists to process more cases, overhauling workflow processes to give those specialists more time to work on cases, and working more closely with agencies to help them submit retirement application packages with fewer missing documents or other mistakes.
Earlier this month, OPM issued guidance to agencies with tips on how to submit “healthy” retirement packages. And on Sept. 12, OPM will hold a training session on preparing those packages for human resources officials who handle retirements.