The Office of Personnel Management in April processed its third-highest number of federal pension claims.
But OPM’s performance is almost certain to end this month — the first full month that processing staff will not be paid overtime. That overtime has allowed the agency to turn around its once-sluggish pension processing efforts.
OPM processed 13,582 pension claims last month — about 2,000 more than the agency predicted. That followed a record 15,333 claims processed in February, and 14,683 in March.
But last week, OPM announced it canceled overtime for its retirement services division due to the sequester’s budget cuts. Increased overtime had been a major part of OPM’s efforts to speed up pension processing, and without it, OPM said retirees should expect to wait longer for their complete pensions.
Since there were only two days left in April when OPM canceled overtime, the decision likely had little effect on that month’s totals. But May could be a different story.
The backlog of unprocessed claims dropped to 30,080 in April. That is the lowest since at least December 2011. OPM began reporting pension processing figures in January 2012, when it announced its plan to reduce the longstanding backlog.
The recent spike in retirements also ended last month when the number of monthly retirement claims dropped to 7,059. That is nearly 1,000 less than the 8,000 retirements OPM predicted, and less than the 10,183 claims OPM received in March. OPM also received 22,187 claims in January and 20,374 in February, and said the spike was due to U.S. Postal Service buyouts.
The number of retirements last month was still higher than the 6,770 claims received in April 2012. So far this year, retirements are up 67 percent over the same period last year.