The Office of Personnel Management continued to pare its backlog of pension claims last month, aided in part by a drop in the number of new applications, according to newly released statistics.
In December, the number of pending claims fell to about 12,600, down almost 11 percent from November, and less than half the total from a year earlier, the figures indicate. For December, OPM’s retirement services office processed some 6,500 claims, well short of projections. But the almost 4,950 new claims received last month was also significantly short of the 8,400 expected.
As is typical at the beginning of the new year, however, OPM is forecasting a spike in the number of new claims, with 20,000 predicted this month. A similar surge early last year — fueled in part by a wave of early retirements from the U.S. Postal Service — temporarily helped drive up the claims backlog. Since February, the backlong has resumed the largely steady decline that began in 2012 after OPM launched a concerted effort to fix long-standing problems with its handling of pension claims.
The agency’s approach now is to process at least as many cases as it receives each month, with extra processing capacity used for surges, according to Ken Zawodny, head of retirement services.