Sequestration slowing OPM's efforts to clear retirement backlog

Friday - 7/5/2013, 1:53pm EDT

Sequestration appears to have taken a bite out of the Office of Personnel Management's efforts to process federal retirement claims.

OPM processed just 8,683 claims last month — about 2,800 fewer than it had initially expected to. That's the second month in a row OPM fell behind in processing monthly claims according to new OPM data.

The agency was forced to eliminate overtime for employees in its Retirement Services operation at the end of April because of the automatic budget cuts. Expanding the use of overtime had been a key weapon in OPM's arsenal for clearing a longstanding backlog of federal retirement claims. Without it, OPM's progress in shrinking the inventory of delayed claims has slipped, shrinking by just 668 claims last month.

The backlog now stands at 25,542 claims — less than half what it was when OPM rolled out a new strategy in January 2012. But the agency had expected to have the backlog down to about 16,000 by this time.

The revamped strategy called for OPM all but clear the backlog entirely by the end of this month and to begin processing 90 percent of all new retirement applications within 60 days — a goal which now seems unlikely.

The agency's progress in clearing the backlog has been stunted not only by the loss of overtime, but also by an unexpected surge of claims at the beginning of the year. Between January and April, OPM received about about 60,000 new retirement applications, approximately 43 percent more than a similar stretch of time last year and 51 percent more than OPM expected.

OPM received 8,015 claims last month — about on par with what it expected. The agency expects to receive 8,400 claims this month.

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