The amount of retirement cases sitting unprocessed at the Office of Personnel Management dropped by nearly a quarter in May, marking the fourth straight month of record lows processing time the office hasn’t seen in at least the last two years.
The office again processed more claims than it received last month, though it still takes about 70 days to handle cases. Compared with January, when it was taking on average more than 90 days, the office has been able to get through retirement files more quickly.
OPM is still well above its goal of having no more than 13,000 cases in its inventory, though recent months have show more progress in 2023 than in the years before. The office also aims to process retirement cases in about two months.
In an interview, Lori Amos, deputy associate director for OPM Retirement Services, said “tiger teams” have been focusing on the oldest cases that have been in limbo for more than 180 days. Oftentimes these cases get stuck because they’re missing information, so Amos said her teams have been working on addressing those gaps and rectifying them so those files can move forward.
And between a new retirement chatbot being piloted and a self-help retirement tool, the office is hoping to give retirees more information about where they’re at in the process as it continues to shave time off processing.
Governmentwide, the error rate is about 25%. In June, 11 agencies had an error rate higher than that, with the Department of State registering at 48% — nearly one in every two cases.
The U.S. Postal Service has the lowest error rate at 9%.
Some of the most common mistakes include failure to sign certification of an employee’s life insurance status (form 2821) and documentation of health benefits coverage.
There are more than $83 billion worth of annual annuity payments made to nearly 2.7 million federal beneficiaries.
In 2018, the average monthly annuity for civilian employees under the Civil Service Retirement System was $4,973, compared to $1,834 per month for those in the Federal Employees Retirement System.
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.