Federal retirements 2010-2013
Federal retirements have been on the rise over the past few years. All told, the Office of Personnel Management received 114,697 federal retirement applications in 2013. That's about 8,000 more claims than OPM expected and 7.6 percent above 2012 levels.
Federal retirements by month (2013)
Federal retirements surged at the beginning part of the year. OPM received nearly four times as many claims as it expected in February and nearly two times as many in March. That surge in cases came due in large part because of a raft of early-retirement offers at the U.S. Postal Service. More USPS employees retired in the first half of 2013 -- about 30,000 -- than in all of 2012.
OPM's retirement processing (2013)
OPM faced challenges in its efforts to reduce a longstanding backlog of retirement claims. The across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration forced the agency in May to cancel the use of overtime for employees who process retirement claims. Later, OPM was able to restore limited use of overtime -- but the agency says it will only use the extra staff hours when it faces surges in incoming applications.
Retirement backlog (2013)
At the end of 2013, the backlog of retirement cases stood at 12,637 cases -- a nearly 70 percent decline from the backlog's peak of 41,000 cases earlier in the year. Originally, though, OPM had hoped to have the backlog nearly cleared by September. In August, OPM pushed back that goal until this summer and revised its projections for shrinking the backlog. OPM's performance has generally tracked the projections of its revised plan.
OPM also made progress last year in reducing the time it takes to process a retirement claim. The average processing time, as of last summer, is about 91 days — down from 156 days when the agency first launched its strategic plan in January 2012. The reduced time is thanks largely to a Lean Six Sigma efficiency review, the additional hiring of specialists and modest IT upgrades.