Millions of federal employees rely on the Office of Personnel Management for their salaries, benefits, and retirement options. If this office isn’t reliable, then federal workers are at risk of delaying their retirement and having their data exposed to criminal hackers. Unfortunately, an OPM data breach is more of a potential threat than initially thought.
Recently, the Government Accountability Office reviewed the current systems in place at the OPM and found them lacking.
Multiple security gaps put employees at risk and need to be fixed if the federal government is going to rely on the office as a reliable source of employee management.
The OPM Needs to Close Security Gaps
Last year, the Government Accountability Office shared 19 security recommendations for the OPM created by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team. The OPM has acted on 11 of these recommendations so far. While this is certainly progress, and federal employees can feel more confident in the OPM now as opposed to last year, there is still room for improvement in preventing an OPM data breach.
FedSmith reports that the OPM has taken action on the remaining eight recommendations, meaning they should be closed by the end of this year or next. However, some of their guidelines are more involved than others. For example, four of the remaining eight tasks were attempted, but require additional steps for completion.
If the OPM fails to complete these tasks fully, then its systems will still put federal employees at risk of losing their personal information to hackers. Some analysts say the OPM continues to make the same mistakes it made in the past, meaning similar problems will crop up in the future.
An OPM Data Breach Can (and Did) Impact The Retirement Backlog
The department has a history of OPM data breaches and IT troubles that have followed it from past years into the present day. For example, in 2015, it experienced two data breaches that put the data of nearly 26 million current and former employees at risk. In the second OPM data breach, 5.6 million people likely had their fingerprints stolen. This is what lead to the 19 recommendations.
If the OPM isn’t fighting data breaches that put the identities of federal workers at risk, then its often struggling to modernize its processes and upgrade its systems. The OPM website itself blames an unsuccessful “‘off-the-shelf’ private sector processing system,” for its retirement application backlog.
The OPM says it tried to redesign the entire application process simultaneously and assumed the new process would work effectively and not need additional staff. This led to layoffs, and meant the OPM had no one to turn to when the new system didn’t work. This lead to the massive application backlog that most employees face when they want to retire from their posts.
The OPM needs dedication to both security and IT development if it wants to establish systems that federal employees can trust and actively use for their benefits and retirement needs.The OPM needs dedication to both security and IT development if it wants to establish systems that federal employees can trust and actively use for their benefits and retirement needs.Click To Tweet
The OPM Made Is Making Progress Against Its Backlog
Despite the IT weaknesses, there is good news. Ever since the retirement backlog started to grow, federal employment watchdogs like FedSmith have carefully followed its progress and reported the results to potential retirees.
MyFEDBenefits reported on the OPM retirement backlog spike in December and January, when employees took time off from work for the holidays and more people applied for retirement at the end of the year.
However, it seems like the OPM is catching up, as the department made significant gains against the deficit these past few months:
- In March, the backlog fell 23% as the number of unprocessed claims fell from 24,225 to 18,730. This was mostly because fewer claims were filed in March than previous months.
- In April, the backlog fell 6.6% as the OPM processed 1,241 more claims than it received. The OPM is also ahead of its backlog from last April, which had 18,932 unprocessed claims. This April it fell to 17,489.
Not only are there fewer OPM retirement claims in the queue, it is also taking a shorter time to process them. The average waiting time for approval is down to 58 days from an average of 72 days a year ago. There’s hope that if the OPM can process applications in a shorter time then it can cut down on the backlog faster as well.
Don’t Let the OPM Leave You Financially Unstable
You can’t stop an OPM data breach or control what the Office of Personnel Management does, but you can control your own financial situation. You can take steps today to make sure you can hand any financial turmoil, even if it lasts a few months.
Whether you’re a few days from retirement or decades away, contact MyFEDBenefits. We can look at your current financial situation and make sure you’re taking the right steps to save. Our local specialists can help you get the benefits you need and find ways to navigate convoluted OPM processes.
With the right help and careful planning, you can sail through retirement and enjoy your best years worry-free. Contact us today.