In my June columns, I talked about how planning pays off when you are getting ready to retire and how your agency processes your retirement application.
Here, I’ll describe the Office of Personnel Management’s role in converting your application into a retirement annuity. I’ll also provide some insights about how long it will take before you receive your first annuity payment.
If your agency met OPM’s processing standards, your retirement application will have cleared your agency’s personnel and payroll offices in 30 days or fewer after your retirement date. However, staffing shortages in your agency personnel and payroll offices or a flood of retirement applications could slow that process.
As a rule, agencies notify former employees when their retirement package has been shipped to OPM. Until that happens, refer any questions about your application’s status to your former personnel or payroll office.
Once OPM’s Retirement Operation Center in Boyers, Pa., gets your retirement package, it will send you a written acknowledgment and a retirement claim number. That number will be preceded by the letters CSA, shorthand for “civil service annuitant.”
If it’s clear from your file that you are entitled to an annuity, OPM will authorize interim annuity payments. OPM’s director recently stepped in to increase the amount of those interim payments to more accurately reflect the full amount you are due.
OPM tries to authorize interim payments within 10 days after it receives your retirement package. That’s a little more than five weeks after the date on which you retired. However, it can miss that target. With buyouts and early outs generating spikes in workload, the gap between the receipt of your application and your being put in interim pay can stretch out.
Once interim pay has been authorized, Treasury Department processing takes another eight to 10 business days. You’ll usually receive your first interim payment within six or seven weeks after you retire.
Final adjudication of your case doesn’t take place in Boyers. If there are additional questions to be resolved about your application, they will be dealt with in OPM’s Office of Retirement Benefits in Washington. In general, when problems arise, they involve questions about whether certain kinds of civilian government service are creditable for retirement purposes. If that’s the case, you may have to provide additional documentation.
When your file is complete, your regular annuity amount will be calculated and full payment authorized. Any money you are owed from being in interim pay status will be included in your first regular annuity payment.
Concurrently, OPM will send you an annuity statement and other information concerning your retirement benefits. Keep this statement. If you apply for a large loan, you may be asked to provide a copy of the statement as proof of your entitlement to an annuity.
OPM’s longtime goal is to complete the entire retirement review process within 30 to 35 days of the date it receives your retirement package from your payroll office. The process now can take many months. That’s usually because a case is complicated or because OPM’s staff is inundated by retirement applications from employees who have been offered buyouts or a chance to retire early.
If you have questions about the status of your retirement application once it has reached OPM, contact OPM’s Retirement Information Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888-767-6738, TDD 800-878-5707. Be sure to have your CSA number.
If you have not received your CSA number, and your agency payroll office hasn’t notified you that your package was sent to OPM, contact the payroll office and ask for the number of the Register of Separations and Transfer it was on, the transmittal and mailing dates, and the payroll office identification number. If your package has been sent to OPM, the above information will allow OPM to quickly track it down.
When everything is working well, your transition from employment to retirement should be simple and straightforward. In other cases, remember that the heat is on from the Congress, agency heads and top management at OPM to get the job done quickly and right.