Action Needed To Eliminate Delays in Processing Civil Service Retirement Claims

FPCD-81-40: Published: Jul 20, 1981. Publicly Released: Jul 23, 1981.

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For the past 4 years, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has not met its performance standard of 35 days for acceptable retirement claims settlement. In January 1981, OPM was taking an average of 98 days to settle retirement claims. Claims from survivors of deceased annuitants and deceased employees were taking even longer. OPM officials initiated several actions to improve the claims processing operation. They developed a means of identifying work force requirements, detailed for 90 days former claims examiners who settled about 9,000 claims, recruited 113 additional claims examiners, and refined the claims settlement process. Without these actions, settlement times would be much longer.

Even with the expanded work force and current settlement process, GAO estimates that OPM will need 2.5 more years to eliminate the backlog of claims and reach its 35-day processing standard. GAO found the primary cause of the lengthy delays in settling retirement claims to be the failure by OPM to maintain a sufficient and experienced work force. Other causes were a cumbersome claims process and incomplete and inaccurate records submitted by employing agencies. OPM has no standards for measuring the productivity of its examiners. The current work force planning process of OPM is not based on achieving the OPM standard for an acceptable level of service to retirees. Had OPM based its plans on meeting their standard, it would have recognized the need to take corrective action. Before 1980, regardless of complexity, all claims moved through the same processing steps, and OPM made no effort to identify claims that could be processed faster than others. Approximately 25 percent of retirement claims could be settled by abbreviated processing. OPM cannot complete its claims settlement process until it receives complete and accurate records from agencies. Approximately 10 percent of all records submitted by agencies are inaccurate or incomplete, and correcting these deficiencies can extend OPM settlement times by more than 70 days. The current manual claims process needs to be automated; however, OPM has not developed a long-term plan for automating the retirement process.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director, OPM, should: (1) apply additional resources to claims settlement to more quickly eliminate the backlog and achieve the 35-day processing standard; (2) develop a work force plan based on maintaining 35-day processing times; (3) develop productivity measurements and use them to hold employees and managers accountable for their performance; (4) evaluate periodically the timeliness, completeness, and accuracy of records submitted by employing agencies and inform them of their performance deficiencies; and (5) develop a long-term plan for automating the retirement claims process which will insure that settling claims entails less manual effort.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management


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