OPM gets a small break in December retirement claims

Even though fewer employees retired in December. OPM has its work cut out for it in 2016 as it faces a backlog of about 11,400 claims.

December saw the lowest number of retirement claims received by the Office of Personnel Management during 2015. (OPM)

The Office of Personnel Management got a slight reprieve in the number of retirement cases it received to finish 2015, as the agency continued to slog away at its claims backlog last month.

OPM received the fewest number of retirement claims, 4,753, in December 2015 since December of last year, when it received 4,077, according to the agency’s most recent report released Jan. 5.

OPM still was able to process almost 6,000 claims in December 2015, leaving the backlog of unprocessed retirement cases at about 11,400 to start 2016.

OPM played catch-up over the past year after retirement claims received peaked at 18,629 in January, pushing the backlog up to 22,636. The agency also saw higher than average retirements in February and July — though about 50 percent less than January’s total.

OPM increased its claims processing incrementally before peaking in May at almost 11,000 claims processed.

The agency then lightened its load before processing another 10,000 in October.

OPM processed about 78 percent of claims  within 60 days or less in 2015. By contrast, in 2014 OPM about 84 percent of all claims within 60 days.

When cases were processed under the 60-day mark, OPM says it completed the claims in an average of 40 days. But when it took OPM longer than 60 days, federal retirees had to wait an average of 104 days for OPM to clear their cases.

The agency tweaked its reporting metrics for retirement claims in October, choosing to add more data about the time it might take for federal employees and retirees to receive their benefits.

New retirement reports now include the average number of days it takes to process retirement cases in 60 days or less, in addition to the average number of days for processing cases in more than 60 days. Reports also include monthly and year-to-date percentages.

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