Sequestration could cause delays in retirement processing, OPM says

Monday - 4/29/2013, 7:59pm EDT

Sequestration is already on track to claim a chunk from furloughed federal employees' paychecks.

Now, the across-the-board budget cuts could cause delays in the processing of feds' retirement benefits.

The Office of Personnel Management says sequestration cuts have forced the agency to curtail call-center hours and to suspend overtime hours for its Retirement Services employees.

"While it is our hope that process improvements developed over the past year will ameliorate some of the adverse effects of these necessary actions, retirees should expect an increase in the time required to process their claims or respond to inquiries," Ken Zawodny, OPM's associate director for retirement services, wrote in a post on OPM's website.

Call-center hours have been reduced to 7:40 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday as of April 28.

"OPM remains committed to assuring that retirees receive the benefits that they have earned, and we will provide an update on the impact of these actions on retirement processing on a monthly basis with our retirement claims processing report," Zawodny wrote.

The next report — detailing the number of federal employees filing retirement claims this month and how many applications OPM processed — is due next week.

So far, OPM has been hit by a surge in retirement applications. The number of claims the agency has received has outpaced expectations in every month this year, causing a longstanding backlog of delayed claims to grow.

The reduced hours at OPM's Retirement Services office threatens to put the agency even further behind in processing claims. Expanding work hours and deploying the "effective use of overtime" were included as pillars in the strategic plan OPM launched in January 2012 to shrink the backlog.

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