OPM's role in processing your retirement

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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 retire@opm.gov 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.

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About Author

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to fedexperts@federaltimes.com.

7 Comments

  1. Patricia Rosner on

    Hello, maybe you can help me…
    I am a former spouse of a Civil Service Retiree. I have been awarded a 50% community interest in his pension as well as a survivor benefit election.
    My problem is I need a CSA number before OPM will give me any information on the monetary award and nobody seems able to help me find out this number. I have not received any notifications regarding this.
    My ex-husband returned to his former job as an independent consultant.
    Is there any way to obtain this elusive CSA number as his ex-spouse? I do not know if he has started collecting his pension or if he received a CSA number, which he certainly wouldn’t share with me.
    Thank you for your time.

  2. Hello,

    I am extremely confused about whether or not my SF 3107 application was approved for Discontinued Service/Immediate Retirement following termination — I am hoping you can provide some advice or insight.

    Background:
    (1) In Aug 2018, I was terminated from my APF federal employment position with a charge of Failure to Follow policy (this was the one and only disciplinary action levied against me during my entire federal career, and prior to termination I had no formal/informal disciplinary actions and or performance issues — zero). I am 51 years of age, and have 30 years of credible federal service, SCD April 1988;

    (2) In Sep 2018, I was advised that I would be/should be eligible for Discontinued/Immediate Retirement and to complete/submit SF3107 form — which I did;

    (3) In Oct/Nov 2018, while following up with OCHR Retirement Benefits, on the status of my application I was verbally advised that that OCHR completed their processing of my SF 3107 retirement application/package, however there were notes in my file that OCHR DID NOT recommend authorization for Discontinued Service Retirement, they stated there were no notes as to the reason why OCHR did not recommend my package not be approved — but that my package was forwarded to OPM for final decision.

    (4) On Nov 21, 2018, I received a Retirement Services Reference Card, with a CSA Claim number from OPM. The first paragraph of the form letter states, “We will begin to process your retirement application. We will begin interim payments based on your qualifying service as quickly as possible. Please be aware that:
    * If you applied for a deferred annuity at age 62 or after or were in receipt of payments from the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs on the date of your retirement, we will notify you if you are eligible to receive interim payments…”

    (5) On Dec 5, 2018, while accessing my checking account I noticed there was a direct deposit made into my account labeled – OPM1 TREAS 310 XXCIV SERV, from the Department of Treasure’s Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund.

    NOTE: From the time I received the OPM form with my Retirement Services Reference Card, in Nov, until I received direct deposit payment, in Dec, I did not receive any further correspondence from OPM regarding the status of my SF 3107 Discontinued Service/Immediate Retirement package stating if it had been approved or disapproved.

    MY CONFUSION: Because the OPM form letter, containing the Retirement Services Reference Card, did not state that my SF 3107 application/package was approved for Discontinued Service Retirement, it only stated my retirement package was received and being processed… does this mean:

    (1) that because I received a deposit/payment (possibly an interim payment) on Dec 5th, that my SF 3107 Discontinued Retirement package was APPROVED? Would I receive a payment if the package was disapproved?

    -and-

    (2) IF the request for SF 3107 Discontinued Service Retirement was disapproved, would OPM automatically default and review my SF 3107 application package as a Deferred Retirement application (as I have not decided if I would want to accept Deferred Retirement vice taking the payout of all my FERS contributions)? And also would I receive an interim annuity payment with Deferred Retirement?

    This is all very confusing.

    I have called the 1-888-767-6738 Retirement Services number for assistance and am now waiting , 10-20 days, for someone to call me back.

    Any possible insight you may have is greatly appreciated.

    Thank you

    • When OPM receives a retirement package that appears to meet all the requirements, it begins making interim payments. These continue until it can complete the review process and finalize the case. When it does, it will begin making full annuity payments, plus a catch-up payment to cover the difference between the interim payments and the correct amount.

    • Sounds like you were approved. You should be able to establish an account at Retirement Services online to check the progress. https://www.servicesonline.opm.gov/

      I don’t think I would tell OPM that you “think OCHR recommended disapproval.” OPM is the decision-maker on retirements. Just ask them “am I approved from Discontinued Service Retirement?” You don’t want to create a problem where none exists.

  3. p.s. You do not want to take a refund of your FERS contributions. That is next to nothing to compared to a lifetime annuity. It wouldn’t be a deferred retirement, since you have at least 25 years in FERS; the criteria is “25 years at any age.” It would be an immediate annuity, for life.

  4. Why does it take 4 months to process a deferred retirement. I’ve sent my application in to OPM 4 times. 4! Each time they claim not to have it, yet I have a postal receipt indicating delivery. Now, I’m being told that I will receive nothing for at least 4 months. I sent it in 60 days prior to my MRA and retirement. I meet all the other criteria. 16+ years of federal service. Plus, they’re nasty at the 888 number.

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