Retirement claims for federal employees were processed at a record clip last month.

For the first time all year, and at least since 2020, the average time it took for the Office of Personnel Management to certify retirement cases dipped below the target of 60 days to a record low of 47 days in February.

And that comes at a time when OPM is expected to slow down due to a high number of cases passing through the office between January and March. This time of year is a popular season for retirement.

To be sure, OPM did receive a large number of new cases last month, about 8,700, after intaking a surge of them in January. But the office was also able to process 10,000 files last month, thereby keeping the backlog in check to start the calendar year.

The rapid pace also brought down the year-to-date average processing time to 62 days, which may offer a better estimate for retirees awaiting their first check. While it remains to be seen if the office can keep this momentum going, it shows the annual retirement wave in January has not shaken the overall process from its footing.

The overall case backlog is down 4,000 cases from this time last year.

In recent years, OPM has recognized annuitants have waited too long in certain instances for their hard-earned retirement money to come in. It’s been a decadeslong effort to address this and employees’ concerns about not knowing the status of their retirement application after they’ve submitted it. A combination of understaffing, limited technology, inefficient workflows and error-ridden applications have contributed to a backlog that once ballooned to more than 36,000 cases. The target is about a third of that.

OPM has put out several resources to help feds navigate this process, including videos, a quick retirement guide and lists of common retirement mistakes. These aren’t catch-alls, but they do address some of the most commonly asked questions.

OPM is also looking to modernize its online retirement application, with plans to source money for that effort beginning this fiscal year.

Of the cases that took longer than 60 days, OPM said they averaged 135 days to completion.

Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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