At the moment, some former federal employees find themselves waiting for as long as three months to receive their retirement benefits.
At least a dozen American lawmakers want to know why.
In a recent letter to Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Kiran Ahuja, a group of 12 members of Congress and the United States Senate shared their concerns over “excessive delays” federal retirees are encountering as they wait to obtain their retirement benefit payments.
“It has been reported that average retirement processing times have been far above the agency’s stated goal of 60 days—instead often exceeding 90 days. We are aware of at least one case that has been in processing for  months. We also have experienced delayed response time to congressional inquiries,” the lawmakers wrote.
FedSmith’s Ian Smith offered a recent summary of what the backlog means for federal employees, and what happens when federal workers first submit a retirement application.
First, he or she will receive what is known as “interim” annuity payments until OPM finishes fully processing the retirement application, Smith wrote, adding that these payments constitute a portion of the final annuity payment.
“The intent of interim pay is to provide federal employees with some retirement income while OPM is processing the retirement application,” Smith wrote.
When OPM is faced with a significant backlog of retirement claims, he continued, “it means that it is likely to take longer to process federal employees’ retirement claims. The longer the process takes, the longer federal employees will remain in interim status on their annuity payments.”
Serving the Public Servants
As the aforementioned letter noted, federal retirees are “dedicated public servants who often have provided decades of essential work that is vital in keeping our government running, despite being subjected to uncertainty due to hiring freezes, continuing resolutions and other budget constraints.”
And, while acknowledging that the OPM is working to implement changes designed to modernize and improve the federal retirement system, the Senators and U.S. Representatives put forth a number of questions to which they hope the OPM can provide answers.
For example, the letter cited a recent report that found OPM receiving nearly twice as many retirement claims in January 2023 as the agency handled in December of last year. Given that substantial increase, the lawmakers asked the OPM how it plans to handle the increased caseload without further extending processing time.
The letter also asked whether the OPM was adequately staffed, and if not, which offices the agency most needs supplementary staffing resources. In addition, the letter’s authors seek information as to what assistance the OPM would need from Congress in order to maintain a fully staffed workforce and to process retirees’ applications in a timely manner.
The group of politicians referenced OPM’s 2022-2026 Strategic Plan. That vision “includes an initiative to modernize the application process, including developing an electronic application form and an electronic system to store retirement information,” they wrote, adding that a pilot digital retirement system based on OPM’s modernization initiative has already been rolled out.
As such, the letter’s authors posed a series of related questions, such as:
How many retirees has the pilot served so far?
What is OPM’s plan to expeditiously expand the program across the agency?
What is the estimated cost of implementing digitization?
While not providing a specific timeline for the OPM to offer answers to these and other queries, the Senators and Congress members anticipated the agency’s “timely response,” adding that “we cannot fail to serve the public servants who have dedicated so many years to keeping our government running.”
03 May 2023
HR News Article