The retirement claims backlog inched back up in July, after the Office of Personnel Management reduced the number of outstanding applications to its lowest point in years in June.
OPM received 9,101 new retirement applications in July, over 1,000 more than expected. The backlog is now at 13,620 claims — 1,229 more claims than in June. Still, OPM reported that the percent of retirement claims processed in 60 days or less increased slightly between June and July: from 77.3 percent to 77.9 percent.
The agency also just missed its target last month for number of retirement claims processed, completing 7,872 applications compared to a goal of 8,100 claims.
Despite the slight setback, OPM has made steady progress since February on reducing the inventory of retirement claims, decreasing the backlog by 42 percent in that time. In June, the agency had reduced the backlog to 12,391 applications – the lowest point in years. And although the backlog is higher in July than it was in June, it is still lower than what OPM projected it would be by this time. The agency set a goal of 14,442 retirement claims pending for last month, beating that target by 822 claims.
It is possible OPM will come close to eliminating the decades-old backlog by the end of the year. OPM originally attempted to eliminate the backlog by the summer of 2013, but sequestration forced the agency to scale back its ambitions.
In March, a bipartisan group of senators blasted OPM for wasting taxpayer dollars by continuing to use an outdated system to process claims. The lawmakers wrote a letter to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta after The Washington Post published a scathing report on the inefficiencies of the agency’s claims processing.
Clearing up the retirement claims backlog has been an ongoing struggle for OPM and a constant source of frustration for federal retirees and members of Congress who are hearing lots of complaints from their constituents.