Federal employees waited longer for their retirement claims to process in June than for any other month this year, according to numbers released by the Office of Personnel Management.

The monthly average processing time for June was 78 days, up from 70 days in May, driving up the average for the fiscal year so far from 74 to 75 days.

OPM’s goal for retirement processing times is 60 days on average, an objective that the agency beat only in the first two months of 2020. The agency also aims to get its inventory of retirement claims down to a steady state of 13,000, a goal that hasn’t been met at any point in the past two fiscal years.

The retirement claim inventory as of June was just under 25,000.

Federal retirement claims filed with OPM fluctuate throughout the year, with the largest number generally filed in January each year, and the fewest filed in December. This fluctuation means that OPM’s inventory and processing times are bound to change to some degree as OPM employees deal with heavier or lighter workloads.

Much of the OPM retirement process is still paper based, a longstanding problem for improving processing times.

Modernization of that system has long been a goal of OPM leadership, and the agency’s new director, Kiran Ahuja, promised in her confirmation hearing that she intends to modernize the system to “honor” retirees.

But Congress needs to provide the money for OPM to make that IT investment and perform the work of converting paper files to a digital system.

President Joe Biden’s budget request and the version of the spending bill being considered in the House would grant OPM a $42 million budget increase to make such improvements.

Ahuja has also suggested creating a “fast-track” system for the most straightforward retirement claims, so that those employees are not stuck waiting behind more complex claims that take much longer to process.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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