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OPM to offer buyouts, early outs

Jun. 4, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments

The Office of Personnel Management is planning to offer buyouts and early retirements to nearly 300 employees — and some of those buyouts are likely to result in slower pension processing times.

In an agencywide e-mail sent May 31, acting OPM Director Elaine Kaplan said a “limited number” of buyouts and early retirements will be offered to employees in certain positions and organizations. Employees in those positions and organizations will receive personalized e-mails June 17 explaining eligibility requirements and how and when applications may be submitted.

“These offers are one of several cost-saving strategies OPM is using to address our tight budget,” Kaplan said. “In addition, they are an important workforce reshaping tool that can be used to ensure OPM can accomplish our mission as efficiently as possible.”

Kaplan did not say how many buyouts and early retirements would be offered in her e-mail. But an OPM chart obtained by Federal Times detailed as many as 299 buyouts and early outs the agency will accept.

The buyouts and early outs will hit OPM’s human resources staff hardest, and could cut up to 129 positions throughout the agency. OPM will also accept up to 50 buyouts and early outs in its employee services division.

But the planned 17 buyouts in OPM’s retirement services division could greatly complicate the agency’s efforts to speed up retirement processing. OPM is limiting those buyouts to nonsupervisory employees who are already eligible to retire.

OPM has struggled for years to quickly and accurately process pensions. Beginning in January 2012, OPM hired more staff to process retirement claims and answer inquiries from the public. The agency also increased the use of overtime, and overhauled its processes. Since then, the agency has made considerable progress, cutting the backlog of unprocessed claims from 61,108 to 30,080 in April.

But OPM in April canceled overtime for pension processing due to budget cuts, and said that loss would likely result in longer pension processing times.

Jessica Klement, legislative director for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said OPM’s retirement services buyouts will make matters worse.

“The prospect of losing 17 people in the division that has already eliminated overtime and cut back on call center hours will unquestionably have a negative impact on the timely processing of retirement claims,” Klement said. “Already hindered by sequestration cuts, these buyouts will undoubtedly reverse the progress OPM has made in reducing the backlog.”

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