OPM processed 9,953 pension claims in February—up 14% from the 8,749 claims the agency processed in January, and 20% more than the 8,300 claims it expected it would process in February.
The Federal Times reports, tens of thousands of federal retirees wait months for their complete annuities — some for more than a year — and in the meantime have to get by on reduced interim pensions. OPM says interim pensions now average 80% of the full pension retirees are owed, but new retirees sometimes receive much less.
OPM Director John Berry pledged to Congress that fixing pension processing would be his top priority this year. In January, OPM released a strategic plan calling for a 50% increase in retirement processing staff, streamlining processes, improved information technology and better cooperation and data exchange with other agencies.
During a February Senate hearing, Berry said he had rehired eight experienced retirees to process retirements, which helped improve productivity, according to the Federal Times. OPM is also granting overtime to processing specialists who prove they can swiftly and accurately adjudicate claims, and is trying to take administrative duties off those specialists’ hands so they can concentrate on processing claims.The increased processing capability helped OPM bring its backlog down 6% from 61,108 in January to 57,570 in February. However, OPM received almost 15% more claims than expected last month— 6,415 claims from new federal retirees in February, compared to an estimated 5,600 claims.
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