OPM backlog

We try to report on the OPM backlog on a regular basis to provide insight into the state of retirement processing and to give employees an idea for what they can expect when they apply for retirement.

The Office of Personnel Management has a significant backlog in the number of retirement applications it needs to process. Some people are waiting longer than two months for their retirement application to be processed, the whole time wondering if there is something wrong with their paperwork and if their retirement benefits will come through.

Keep reading to learn more about this backlog, what affects it, and how you can plan your retirement while minimizing the chances of delay.

The September OPM Backlog Was Worse Than Normal

The OPM publishes monthly reports highlighting the average number of processing days, the number of applications received, and the number processed during that time period. Through FY2018, the average time expected to process a retirement application was 59 days. This is significant progress over 2017 and 2016, where the OPM took an average of 67 days to process an application.

However, in September 2018, there was a spike in processing time, and the average application took 64 days to process.

Slower review times mean fewer retirement claims can be processed and approved. While the OPM had been making progress over the past year to reduce the claims backlog, the OPM backlog actually increased this month by 115 applications. The OPM received 7,142 applications but only processed 7,027.

Some federal employes are waiting longer than 2 months for their retirement application to be processed, the whole time wondering if there is something wrong with their paperwork and if their retirement benefits will come through.Click To Tweet

What Causes the OPM Backlog?

There are two things to consider when discussing the OPM backlog: the root causes of the problem and the seasonal factors that cause increases and decreases in processing ability.

The main cause of the retirement backlog came from a failed technology investment and reductions in staff. The OPM was supposed to invest in a new software tool to make processing easier, but it didn’t perform as expected. When the OPM had to return to its original processing model, it didn’t have the staff to keep up.

However, the OPM retirement backlog moves up and down with each season, and experts are starting to identify problem seasons where the backlog grows. Primarily, when there is a significant influx of applications, the backlog increases. However, it also grows during times when the OPM office is closed, or more people are taking time off, leaving less time to review applications.

A strong example of this seasonal influx comes during the holiday season. The offices are closed around the holidays, and many employees take extra time off to be with friends and family. During this time, more federal workers are considering retirement or deciding to leave service at the end of the year. This creates an influx of applications — without people to process them.

In January of 2018, the OPM received 14,590 applications, but only processed 8,638. This added almost 6,000 applications to the backlog and set the OPM up for a busy year.  

Looking Ahead: Retiring in the Holiday Season

If you’re considering retiring at the end of this year or at the start of 2019, then you’re not alone. There were almost 30,000 applications submitted to the OPM in January and February of this year, and it’s not outlandish to believe just as many workers (if not more) will leave next year.

With the current OPM backlog, it’s important to get ahead of the crowd to increase your chances that your claim is processed faster.   

Try to get your retirement application submitted in early November to increase your chances of receiving approval before the new year. Otherwise, you may not be able to retire until March of 2019, or you may have to wait to receive the benefits you need.

Check to See If You’re Ready for Retirement

As we head toward the end of the year, retirement requests will grow, which means the backlog will also grow. One way you can increase your chances of getting your application approved in a timely manner is by having all of your documents, finances, and plans in order.

To achieve this, start by taking our free Federal Retirement Planning Quiz. This will give you an idea of whether or not you’re ready to retire and what you need to do to get your ducks in a row.

Retirement is supposed to be a time to enjoy your life after years of work. Whatever activities you pursue after you leave federal service, make sure you have the finances to live comfortably — and make sure you act soon to get your retirement application in ahead of the growing backlog.

Start preparing now by taking our Federal Retirement Planning Quiz.

Federal Retirement Planning Quiz.

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