January brings expected spike in retirement claims

Retirement claims surged in January, holding true to the pattern seen in previous years. The Office of Personnel Management reported that it received 14,950 retirement claims in the first month of 2018.

January is historically the month when the most feds file for retirement. But that number, while large, is about 800 fewer than in 2017, and falls short of 2015’s numbers by more than 4,000. But the January surge does launch OPM’s retirement backlog to more than 20,000 claims, a level it hasn’t reached since March 2017.

February usually sees the second highest number of claims; this smaller surge usually produces the highest backlog of the year.

Currently, the backlog inventory stands at more than 7,000 claims higher than what OPM refers to as its “steady state inventory” of 13,000.

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OPM did manage to process 8,638 retirement claims in January, improving on last January by more than 1,200. That’s still significantly less than they were able to process the previous month, however. OPM processed 10,347 claims in December, more than twice the progress it made in November, and brought the backlog to the lowest state it had been since October 2016.

The retirement surge also took its toll on the turnaround rate. While the average number of days it took to process a claim in less than 60 days improved from 43 to 35, that figure is the outlier. Only 56 percent of claims were processed in that timeframe, down from 67 percent in December. That brings the year-to-date down from 62 to 60 percent. And for cases that took more than 60 days to process, that number increased from 96 to 100.