The Office of Personnel Management’s backlog of pending pension applications continues to drop, falling from 22,750 in August to 17,719 last month, or less than half the number from a year ago, according to newly released figures.
Helping to drive the latest drop in the backlog was the agency’s decision in August to resume paying limited overtime to employees in its retirement services division. In addition, the influx of new claims fell sharply last month; the total of 5,800 was the lowest level since December.
It’s unclear what caused the drop. An OPM spokesman had no explanation.
OPM has long struggled to quickly and accurately process pension applications. Beginning in January 2012, when the claims backlog stood at more than 61,000, OPM hired more staff members to process retirement claims and field public inquiries. The agency also increased the use of overtime, and overhauled its processes.
After halting overtime for retirement services workers in late April because of the sequester, OPM resumed paying it in August by tapping funds freed up by an early-out program. The office’s spokesman, Thomas Richards, could not immediately be reached for comment Monday on whether the agency is continuing to pay overtime following the beginning of fiscal 2014 last week.
Although OPM, like most agencies, has had to furlough some employees during the partial government shutdown, the retirement services branch is not funded by annual congressional appropriations and thus remains open, according to the agency’s contingency plan.