Retirement backlog grows slightly in July

Monday - 8/5/2013, 12:52pm EDT

For the third month in a row, the Office of Personnel Management failed to meet its monthly goal for processing retirement claims.

OPM projected it would process 9,500 claims, but it was only able to process 7,724, according to new OPM data.

While fewer federal employees filed for retirement than expected — 7,783 compared to an anticipated 8,400 — OPM backslid on its goal of shrinking the backlog, which actually grew slightly last month.

OPM blames its reduced processing power on the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration. To comply with the budget shortfalls, OPM was forced to suspend overtime for its employees in its Retirement Services division starting April 28.

In every month since then, OPM has failed to meet its monthly targets. In fact, in July, the loss of overtime led to OPM processing the fewest number of monthly claims since it launched a comprehensive strategic plan in January 2012.

According to that plan, the agency originally intended to clear the backlog by this summer. But in an update to the plan, announced Monday, OPM now expects to only shrink the backlog "to a consistent workload" by March 2014 and to clear it entirely by that summer.

The number of backlogged claims now stands at 25,601. OPM had originally expected to have shaved the inventory down to 12,978 by this time.

A surge in retirement cases in the first three months of the year has mostly abated. In each of the last four months, fewer federal employees put in for retirement than OPM projected.

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