The latest figures from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) show that impressive strides continue to be made in getting federal retirement claims processed at a faster pace, including claims filed by workers seeking federal disability retirement benefits. However, a traditional spike in applications in the first two months of 2015 could slow down that progress.
According to the OPM’s most recent retirement claims processing progress report, the agency processed 6,447 claims in December 2014. In doing so, the OPM managed to trim its backlog of retirement applications from 14,039 in November 2014 to 11,669 – a reduction of 2,370 claims.
Additionally, OPM reported that the percentage of claims it processed in 60 days or less rose to 83.7 percent – the highest mark since the agency began tracking that statistic in May 2014 (when the number was at 76.6 percent).
That’s the good news. The bad news, as GovExec.com points out, is that OPM typically sees a flood of new retirement claims in January and February of each year. For instance, in the first two months of 2014, the agency received a combined 29,408 new applications, causing its backlog to grow to 23,554.
Is the OPM Retirement Claims Backlog Too High?
If you think a backlog of 11,669 retirement benefits applications is still too high, some perspective may help. Yes, it’s still pretty high. But it’s been worse.
As the OPM’s director, John Berry, noted in a March 2014 blog article, the OPM retirement claims backlog hit a peak of 61,108 claims in January 2012. By the close of the 2013 fiscal year, however, it had been trimmed to 17,719 cases.
In that sense, a backlog of 11,669 claims, with 83.7 percent of claims now being processed in 60 days or fewer, points to significant progress being made in giving retirement applicants a quicker turnaround time.
Some key changes have been made in the retirement process to make the change possible. In particular, OPM has been gradually transitioning from a paper-based, manual model to an electronic, automated model. In fact, since 2005, data on all new federal employees has been maintained electronically. This allows claims to move through the system faster before they reach the decision stage.
Additionally, in a 2012 FCW.com article, Berry said that OPM was making a concerted effort to reach out to federal agencies “with high rates of inaccurate or incomplete files” and getting them to “tighten their game and greatly help us.”
In the coming year, OPM seeks to continue to make information technology improvements within its budget and speed up the process more. Hopefully, those improvements will allow the agency to handle the occasional spikes in applications such as the increase projected for the start of this year.
Considering Federal Disability Retirement? Get Help Today
If you are a federal worker who is considering filing for disability retirement benefits in 2015, the best way to ensure a smooth and efficient processing of your claim is to work with a professional who is familiar with the process.
At Harris Federal, we cannot guarantee that your claim will be among those processed by OPM in 60 days or less. However, based on our extensive experience in working with OPM every day, we can say that we have a firm grasp of the proper procedures and other information OPM will need to do its job as quickly as possible.
Regardless of where you live in the U.S., contact us for a free consultation. We can help you to learn more about the process and the ways we can assist you.