Federal retirement claims appear to be declining again, according to data released Monday afternoon by the Office of Personnel Management. And though numbers haven’t quite fallen back to April or May lows — still hovering around 8,000 — the backlog is a little lighter.
OPM received 201 less claims in July than in the previous month, while also processing more than 1,100 additional claims and shaving at least five days off processing times.
The current backlog sits at 18,413, in relatively the same ballpark as this time last year. OPM received less claims in July 2019 than in July 2018 — but also processed less. Still, the difference wasn’t significant in the 12-month span.
The threat of another government shutdown is not imminent, as the Trump administration signed a two-year, bipartisan budget deal into law on Friday that will allow the government to resume borrowing to pay its bills. The legislation also sets an overall $1.37 trillion limit on agency budgets approved by Congress annually. Still, negotiations will continue when Congress returns from August recess.
The House and Senate will also have to agree to a potential pay raise and pass some sort of measure to override the President’s proposed pay freeze. Draft legislation for fiscal 2020 could include a 3.1% federal pay raise. This too could effect the number of retirement claims in the future.
And despite an overall decrease in retirement claims in July, most agencies saw an increase across the board. The three agencies with the most significant increase — more than 100 — of claims were the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and the United States Postal Service. USPS once again has the largest number of retirement cases, falling around 2,305, an increase of 1,096 since June.
USPS numbers come as no shock, as a postal union (the National Association of Postal Supervisors) filed a lawsuit against the agency over pay and representation at the end of July. Those involved are seeking back pay for managers, postmasters, and other administrative professionals, to match what their counterparts earn in the private sector.
The only two agencies to see a decrease in retirement claims were the Department of Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Most agencies also produced less errors associated with new retirement claims. The Departments of Transportation and Justice were the only two agencies to see an increase in errors.
Government-wide, the percentage of errors decreased from 16% in June to only 11% in July. There were also 2,917 less cases reviewed with errors.