OPM retirement backlog falls 14 percent as agency surpasses monthly goals

Monday - 4/9/2012, 6:49pm EDT

The Office of Personnel Management has consistently made progress processing retirement claims since the start of the calendar year, even as federal employees continue to retire in higher-than-projected numbers.

In each of the first three months of the year, OPM surpassed its processing goal, according to OPM data released last week. Over the same period of time, the agency cut its longstanding backlog of retirement claims by 14 percent from January levels.

For example, in March, OPM only expected to receive 5,000 retirement claims, while it actually received nearly 7,090. Still, the agency processed 12,386 claims — well above the 8,300 it had expected to.

The overall backlog of retirement claims, long a management black eye for the agency, stood at a little more than 61,100 in January. It's fallen each month and by a total of 8,834 since then to 52,274.

In January, OPM Director John Berry sent lawmakers a detailed plan for tackling the retirement backlog, including hiring more than 50 new staff members, expanding work hours and undertaking a much-needed technology upgrade.

"We are putting more bodies on it knowing that because we don't have an IT solution anywhere near on the horizon, we can't kid ourselves," Berry said. "We need more bodies."

The agency's annual performance report for 2011 noted mixed progress in retirement processing. One of the bright spots, however, was in increasing the number of completed retirement applications OPM receives from agencies. Incomplete forms, which OPM must then spend time to finish, contributes to the processing backlog.

This month, OPM expects to receive about 8,000 claims and aims to process 8,300 of them.

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