Senate committee to vet OPM annuity processing strategy

Tuesday - 1/31/2012, 8:06pm EST

The Office of Personnel Management's new strategy to catch up on its backlog of retirement claims will be vetted publicly during a hearing Wednesday of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management.

OPM Director John Berry and Inspector General Patrick McFarland are expected to testify.

A coalition representing federal managers has written to Berry and lawmakers to express "serious concerns" with the backlog of 50,000 cases.

"Given the increased use of early retirement authority and the potential changes to retirement benefits being considered by Congress, we expect that many supervisors, managers and executives will choose to retire over the next year," the Government Managers Coalition said. "We fear this will compound the retirement processing problems, which OPM is already struggling to address."

The five professional groups in the coalition claim to represent 200,000 mid- and senior-level feds.

In addition to a lengthy wait for full annuity checks, the coalition said its members "have experienced a lack of clear communication regarding pre-retirement application inquiries, the payment process, interim pay status that can range from 40-60 percent of the full annuity, and difficulty obtaining information on the status of their payments."

OPM's new approach includes increasing adjudication and customer-service staff and modernizing technology, albeit one step at a time.

The coalition said the agency should improve communications with all feds, including current employees who are years away from retiring.

OPM should send retirees status updates on their applications so that they can anticipate when they will receive a full annuity as well, it said.

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