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Sequester forces OPM to cut pension overtime

Apr. 29, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
Associate Director of Retirement Services Ken Zawodny said the steep budget cuts forced OPM to suspend overtime for employees in his division.
Associate Director of Retirement Services Ken Zawodny said the steep budget cuts forced OPM to suspend overtime for employees in his division. (Office of Personnel Management)

The Office of Personnel Management announced Monday it has suspended all overtime for its employees working on processing federal retirees’ pensions.

In a blog post, Associate Director of Retirement Services Ken Zawodny said the steep budget cuts known as the sequester forced OPM to suspend overtime for employees in his division. Zawodny also said OPM will reduce its call center hours by nearly three hours each weekday to save money. The overtime suspension took effect Sunday, and OPM did not say when overtime might be resumed.

The move will throw a wrench into OPM’s recent successful effort to speed up its processing of new retirees’ pensions and whittle down its backlog of unresolved cases. In January 2012, former OPM Director John Berry unveiled a plan to fix the decades-old problem by hiring more people to process pensions, overhauling how the agency processes claims and answers calls from the public, and authorizing more overtime to specialists who have proven they can accurately and swiftly adjudicate claims.

Since then, OPM has cut its backlog of unprocessed claims by 40 percent, from 61,108 in January 2012 to 36,603 in March 2013. Once OPM got its new pension processors hired and trained last summer, their productivity surpassed the agency’s expectations, and helped it weather a massive buyout-driven spike in retirements earlier this year.

Zawodny said the cancellation of overtime and shortening of call center hours will make it harder for OPM to respond as quickly as it would like.

“While it is our hope that process improvements developed over the past year will ameliorate some of the adverse effects of these necessary actions, retirees should expect an increase in the time required to process their claims or respond to inquiries,” Zawodny said.

Until Monday, OPM’s call center was open between 7:30 a.m. and 7:45 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday. Call center hours are now 7:40 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday.

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