The Office of Personnel Management cut the longstanding backlog of pending retirement claims by more than a third in the first half of 2014.
By the end of May, the inventory of claims had fallen to about 14,500, according to new OPM data released Thursday. That’s down 38 percent from a peak of more than 23,500 claims in February.
In the month of May, alone, the backlog fell by more than 2,000 claims. OPM processed nearly 10,500 retirement applications last month — the third time in a row the agency has cleared more than 10,000 cases in a single month.
Slightly fewer federal employees than expected filed for retirement in May — 8,400 compared to a projected 9,000. So far this, the pace of federal retirements is down compared to last year. In the first five months of 2014, OPM has received about 52,700 retirement applications — about 14,000 fewer than it received during the same period of time last year.
OPM has been tracking and reporting on progress toward cutting the retirement backlog since January 2012. At the time, the backlog topped out at more than 60,000 claims and OPM was the subject of congressional criticism and federal- employee frustration.
The agency originally hoped to virtually clear the backlog entirely by September 2013. But the across-the-board budget cuts, known as sequestration, forced the agency to cut work hours for employees who process retirement claims and threw a wrench in the original timeline.
Under the revised goal for beating the backlog debuted last summer, the agency wants to have the claims inventory down to a more manageable level, so it it can begin processing 90 percent of cases within 60 days. In July, OPM will begin reporting on its progress toward that benchmark.