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Federal retirement leaps from June to July, processing time hits a peak

Federal retirements in July saw a big jump compared to last year, but the average processing time has swelled to nearly three months.

OPM received 8,922 retirement claims last month, compared to 6,819 claims in July 2020 — a 30.8% increase. Processed claims, meanwhile, only saw a 4.5% increase from 6,620 in July 2020 to 6,920 last month.

The latest numbers show that 2021 is generally seeing far more federal retirements than in 2020, when the pandemic reached its height. With the exception of January and February, every month this year has had year-over-year increases ranging from 10.8% to 47.2%.

Most notably, the 22% increase in federal retirements from June to July has led to a growing claims backlog. The inventory of claims ballooned from 24,999 in June to 27,001 in July, reversing the backlog’s downward trend after its peak in March.

July’s backlog numbers are 53.1% higher than a year ago — and more than double the steady state goal of 13,000.

The monthly average processing time jumped from 78 days in June to 91 days in July — four days shorter than last July’s processing time, but still the longest of 2021. Still, the fiscal year-to-date processing times continue to plateau out in the upper 70s.

OPM included a disclaimer that disability claim determinations are included in the pending number after approval, and that “average processing time in days represents the number of days” beginning from when it receives the retirement application through final adjudication.

The agency additionally noted that initial retirement cases produced in less than 60 days took, on average, 44 days to complete. Cases produced in more than 60 days, on the other hand, took 107 days to complete.

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