Federal retirement picks up in first half of 2021, but OPM still takes 2-plus months to process

After a slower January and February, federal retirement seems to be picking back up in the first half of 2021 compared to 2020. June stats from the Office of Personnel Management for newly filed claims showed last month was higher than a year ago, when the pandemic was in full effect.

OPM received 7,264 new retirement claims last month compared to 6,555 new claims in June 2020 — a 10.8% increase. March, April and May each saw year-over-year increases ranging from 15.6%- 47.2%.

Processing them all is a different matter, as last month saw 6,884 claims processed compared to 7,300 processed in June 2020 — a 5.7% decrease. After peaking in March, the claims backlog has been moving downward, but at 24,999 last month is still 30.3% higher than a year ago and 92.3% higher than the steady state goal of 13,000 claims — nearly double.

The monthly average processing time for retirement claims in June 2021 was 78 days, or 2 days faster than June 2020, but overall OPM has not gotten any quicker since 2019. The fiscal year to date processing times have hovered in the upper 70s since October.

OPM included a disclaimer that disability claim determinations are included in the pending number after approval, and that “average processing time in days represents the number of days” beginning from when it receives the retirement application through final adjudication.

The agency also repeated the qualification it has included since the start of the pandemic, which is that “initial retirement cases produced in less than 60 days, on average took 40 days to
complete; whereas cases that were produced in more than 60 days, on average, took 107
days to complete.” The move to mass telework last year caused major delays for OPM staff to process claims.

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