Experts have long predicted a federal retirement tsunami, and the steady uptick in retirement applications across 2011 appears to bear that out.
Overall, 104,810 retirement applications were filed by federal employees in calendar-year 2011, according to numbers provided by OPM — a 24 percent increase over 2010 levels.
That year, 84,427 employees applied for retirement.
In fact, each month in 2011 saw more retirement applications filed than the comparable month in 2010, with the exception of one.
In particular, December, which is typically the calm before a storm of January retirements, was 49 percent above 2010 levels — 7,041 in 2011 compared to 4,726 in 2010.
That coupled with more than 21,000 retirement applications in the first month of 2012 has continued to put pressure on the Office of Personnel Management’s backlogged pension-processing system.
Much of the uptick can likely be laid at the feet of the increased use of early retirement agencies offered last year. At least 21 agencies and departments offered early retirements or buyouts to employees in 2011.
Federal benefits expert Tammy Flanagan told In Depth with Francis Rose that fear — of changes being made to pay and retirement benefits — may also be driving up the number of retirement applications.
“Now that Congress is back to work and all these bills are being worked on … there is a distinct possibility that there could be some changes and I think people are afraid of that, so they’re getting out before those things might happen,” she said.