Look Into Federal Retirement Processing, Lawmakers Tell GAO

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By Louis C. LaBrecque

Oct. 21 — A bipartisan group of House members is asking the Government Accountability Office to look into how the Office of Personnel Management can improve the way it processes federal workers’ retirement applications.

“Our federal workforce deserves a transition to retirement that is efficient, timely, and uncomplicated,” four House members said in a letter to GAO chief Gene L. Dodaro. To that end, the GAO should “study the steps that both OPM and the human resources offices at various agencies can take to ensure the timely processing of a retirement claim,” the letter said.

The GAO should examine problems with both the timeliness of retirement claims and, for some agencies, a high rate of errors in processing employee data, according to the Oct. 19 letter from Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.).

Chaffetz is the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Cummings is the ranking member on the committee. Meadows is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, and Connolly is the top Democrat on that panel.

Problems With Timeliness, Errors

The OPM since March “has reported a steady decline in the percentage of cases processed in 60 days or less, reaching a low point of 64 percent” in September, the letter said. “For those cases not processed in 60 days or less, the average processing time in September was 100 days,” it said.

Data from the OPM show a high rate of errors in processing retirement applications for those retiring from the departments of Veterans Affairs, Interior and Agriculture, along with the Social Security Administration, the letter added.

“While OPM continues to study how best to modernize retirement processing, it is critical that OPM ensure the current paper processing system is efficiently meeting the needs of retiring federal workers,” the letter said. “OPM must also work with its partner agencies to ensure accurate and efficient processing.”

OPM spokesman Samuel J. Schumach told Bloomberg BNA in an Oct. 21 e-mail that the OPM in fiscal year 2016 exceeded its goal of processing 90 percent of retirement claims in 60 days or less, completing the cases in an average of 54 days.

“However, there are periods every year—usually in January and July—that can lead to peaks in volume,” Schumach said. “During these peaks, and when funding is available, OPM provides overtime” to retirement services employees to reduce the resulting backlogs, he said.

The OPM as of last month had a backlog of 15,146 retirement cases, according to a chart from the agency that’s updated monthly. A backlog of 13,000 cases represents a “steady state” for the agency, which receives new retirement claims every month, according to the chart.

To contact the reporter on this story: Louis C. LaBrecque in Washington at llabrecque@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

For More Information

Text of the letter is available at http://src.bna.com/jxE.

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