The Office of Personnel Management processed more retirement applications than expected last month — for the first time since April, according to new OPM data.
OPM processed 10,955 claims in August, well above the 9,500 applications the agency had expected to process under a revised strategic plan released last month.
The enhanced processing power is thanks to a year-end budget review that allowed OPM to restore limited overtime for employees working in its Retirement Services office, OPM said. The agency had suspended employee overtime at the end of April, citing the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.
The loss of overtime — a key element of OPM’s comprehensive strategic plan for shrinking the backlog — caused the agency’s processing output to drop dramatically.
At the height of the revamped processing plan, OPM was able to handle more than 15,000 claims each month. But by July, that fell to fewer than 7,300.
The limited overtime also appears to have helped OPM take a modest chunk out of the backlog. The inventory, which topped the scales at more 60,000 claims when OPM launched its strategic plan, fell by more than 2,800 claims last month to 22,750. OPM had originally planned to clear the backlog by the end of this summer, but announced last month it likely wouldn’t be able to eliminate the longstanding inventory of backlogged claims until next summer.
About 8,100 employees put in for retirement in August, some 300 fewer than OPM projected.
Still, federal retirements are up this year compared to last. So far this year, more than 90,600 employees have put in for retirement — a more than 25 percent increase above last year’s levels.