Editor’s note: This story was updated on Nov. 7 to reflect new information about budget negotiations.
For federal employees who are planning to file for their retirement this year, processing of clams by the Office of Personnel Management would continue even if Congress fails to pass a budget once the continuing resolution expires on Nov. 17.
According to its updated 2023 shutdown guidance, because OPM Retirement Services is funded by the trust fund it manages, employees on that team will still be working as normal during a government shutdown.
The end of the calendar year is a popular time for federal employees to retire from civil service, with OPM historically receiving a surge of applications in January. In years past, that has also coincided with weeks-long government shutdowns that have dragged on past the beginning of the fiscal year on Oct. 1.
In such instances, many agency operations slow, or even stop, depending on whether they have funding outside of what is given by the annual appropriations bills.
In the case of OPM itself, its retirement services department will continue.
“OPM also administers a retirement trust fund and a health insurance trust fund,” the agency said in 2021. “There are sufficient amounts in these trust funds to operate them throughout the duration of any lapse in appropriations.”
If your agency or payroll center submitted your retirement application to OPM, you will begin receiving interim annuity payments while your application is processing, the guidance says.
Individual agencies help prepare retirement applications for adjudication by OPM, so that’s where some lags could be felt.
If your agency didn’t already process your application and send it to OPM before the lapse in appropriations occured, that could further delay processing — on top of whatever delays may be already contributing to longer wait times for prospective retirees, said Tammy Flanagan, a federal retirement expert.
And if your application has an error in it, which nearly more than a quarter of them do, then it could take even longer because OPM will have to communicate with the employing agency while government operations are irregular.
On Nov. 3, preparing for the surge in retirement applications over the holidays, OPM issued a memo to agencies urging them to ensure retirement packages are submitted error free within 32 days of the employee’s separation.
And for those who have already retired, they will still receive their scheduled annuity payments on the first business day of the month.
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.