September retirement claims steady but not moving any faster

Federal retirement claims dropped about 15.5% from August to September, but in most other respects the processing of those claims by the Office of Personnel Management is not budging.

Recently released stats show OPM received 7,589 new retirement claims last month, compared to 8,976 new claims received in August. Last month was the lowest number of new claims since February, but it’s still a nearly 21.5% increase from last September — which saw 6,244 new claims. September has been a slower time for feds entering retirement in recent years, and last month’s numbers were on par with September 2019.

The number of claims processed also declined from 7,412 in August, to 7,344 in September. Last month was not a spectacular time for federal employees’ retirement investments either, as balances in the Thrift Savings Plan — the 401(k) for feds — dipped slightly.

But perhaps the most striking results from last month are the increases in the retirement claims backlog, and in the average time needed to process those claims. The inventory exceeded its record high in August and is now at 28,810 claims, which represents a 57.7% increase from a year ago and a more than 121% increase from OPM’s steady state goal of 13,000 claims in the backlog. Meanwhile, the average processing time for the month of September was 94 days, exceeding three months for the third consecutive month, and the average processing time for the fiscal year to date was 79 days, another record.

OPM’s disclaimer for the report said initial retirement cases produced in less than 60 days took, on average, 39 days to complete while cases that were produced in more than 60 days took an average of 112 days to complete. That last estimate has been inching upward for the past several months.

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    (Amelia Brust/Federal News Network)

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