‘As easy as possible’: OPM’s new tutorials aim to help retiring feds and improve customer experience

New video tutorials from the Office of Personnel Management lay out, step by step, a couple of key items on the federal retirement to-do list.

Federal retirees, and employees looking to retire, have some new resources to help them through the often long and thorny retirement process.

A new series of video tutorials from the Office of Personnel Management lays out, step by step, a couple of key items on the federal retirement to-do list.

With the three new videos, OPM said it hopes to reduce the number of errors from federal retirees when trying to log in to manage their online retirement accounts. And in theory, the videos should also help reduce wait times at retirement services call centers, OPM said, now that more detailed information is readily available to feds who get caught up in some of the early steps of the process.

“Our goal is to make this transition for federal employees as easy as possible,” OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said in a press statement Wednesday.

Specifically, the three videos detail how to set up a Login.gov account through OPM’s Services Online, how to link an existing Login.gov account to Services Online and how to reset an account in the case of a missing code.

Video source: Office of Personnel Management

Login.gov has faced its own set of critical issues. A General Services Administration Inspector General report, published in March, revealed that the platform has never met the government’s technical requirements for identity proofing and authentication.

Still, with the video tutorials, OPM aims to improve customer experience in retirement services, by pointing feds toward more “self-service” choices, rather than only having the option of calling customer service when they run into trouble.

Video source: Office of Personnel Management

OPM also recently created a “retirement quick guide” for federal employees, in an effort to tackle some immediate challenges in the process. While not offering a definitive improvement to the processing time itself, the three-page guide aims to help feds get a clearer picture and timeline of the process, and ease their transition to retirement.

The idea of the guide is to proactively answer some of the more common questions about federal retirement, most notably, “what is the status of my retirement application?” The quick guide helps feds estimate when to expect their interim and first annuity payments.

These new tutorials from OPM now dovetail with that guide, first published in May, all with the end goal of improving the retirement experience for feds overall — something that has remained a pain point for decades.

Video source: Office of Personnel Management

And OPM has seen some of its efforts to improve retirement services already paying dividends — in June, the retirement claims backlog was down to its lowest level since 2017, with 16,370 pending claims. But that’s still 3,370 claims above OPM’s steady state goal of 13,000 pending claims at any given time.

And on Capitol Hill, that six-year low isn’t enough to appease many lawmakers, as OPM continues to face pressure from members of Congress. Earlier this month, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) pressed OPM’s Ahuja for a timeline to modernize retirement services, strategies to improve processing times and the estimated cost to digitize OPM’s retirement services center. He called the current backlog of retirement claims “unacceptable.”

“For decades, this program has failed to quickly serve federal retirees, and as a result, backlogs and delays in processing retirement applications is a longstanding problem,” Lankford said in a July 10 letter, addressed to Ahuja. “The delays in both response and in processing of retirement applications result in genuine difficulty for constituents and, too often, financial harm.”

OPM has started to outline plans to modernize and overhaul retirement services altogether, but the end result may still be years away. The agency has tried nearly countless times to update retirement services, and those efforts continuously fall short of expectations — in large part due to inconsistent agency leadership. With just two years under her belt, Ahuja is the longest-serving Senate-confirmed OPM director since 2015.

Similar to previous OPM leaders, Ahuja vowed during her Senate confirmation hearing in 2021 to address the longstanding issues with retirement services. Now, OPM’s CIO Guy Cavallo said he’s pivoting the approach to IT modernization, and looking at ways to take small steps forward, rather than use a “big bang” approach. Part of his initial strategy will be to make it easier for both current and future retirees to look up their status — and how much money they’ll receive.

“OPM remains committed to helping federal employees transition from serving the American public to enjoying their hard-earned retirement,” Ahuja said.

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