Government affairs

Legislative Updates

House holds hearing on pension processing

Last Friday, the House subcommittee with USPS oversight held a hearing to follow up on the backlog in the federal employee retirement process. Witnesses included OPM Associate Director of Retirement Services Kenneth Zawodny, OPM Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour, Government Accountability Office (GAO) Director of Information Management and Technology Resources Issues Valerie Melvin, and National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) President Richard Thissen.

During the hearing, the subcommittee reviewed the backlog of claims from recent annuitants. The committee acknowledged that progress has been made as the OPM reached its 2012 goal in reducing the overall backlog of claims. According to OPM, in January 2012, 60,000 claims were backlogged and that number had been reduced to 14,000 by last month. Hearing discussion was also devoted to the impact of sequestration cuts along with an increased volume of annuitants from the Postal Service’s early retirement offers, factors that made the OPM’s overall backlog processing-reduction goals harder to achieve. OPM representatives testified that the agency is working to eliminate 75 percent of backlogged claims. Currently, 84 percent of annuitants are processed within 60 days. This is 6 percent shy of OPM’s goal that needs to be met to demonstrate sustainable progress.

The committee also devoted significant discussion and questions to the new influx of retirees that is on the horizon. Subcommittee Chairman Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and Ranking Member Stephen Lynch (D-MA) encouraged a more swift transition to an electronic-based system to quickly process future annuitants.

“I want to commend OPM for successfully achieving its 2012 strategic plan goal of reducing retirement claims backlog to a manageable level, which was earlier 60,000 claims backlogged in January 2012 to just 14,000 claims at the beginning of this month,” Lynch said. “I know the sequestration made that accomplishment harder to achieve and the large increase in retirement applications resulting from the early retirement and buyout offers from the Postal Service.”

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