Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry announced he would add 80 employees to process federal employee retirement checks faster.
“We want to do everything we can to put as much of their [federal employees’] money – at the end of the day, we have to remember this is their money – in their pockets as quickly as we can,” Berry said, according to The Washington Post.
It now takes almost five months to process claims, The Post reported.
Half of the new workers will be reassigned from within OPM; the others will be new hires.
“We are hiring those people as we speak, and we will be training them and getting them on the front lines as quickly as we can,” Berry said. “That being said, our timeline continues to worsen . . . I recognize the hardship this poses to our retirees.”
The Post conjectures at least part of the problem is the staffing cutbacks that plague OPM.
The other issue is that OPM needs a retiree’s complete employment record, which is easier said than done with employees who, over the course of a career, often work for many agencies.
And the final wrench in the process is that it is almost entirely non-computerized, meaning filing cabinets full of complicated, sometimes missing paper records.
The agency has attempted to automate the system in the past – five times, in fact, Government Executive reports – all to no avail. Now, Berry said OPM is trying a different tack.
OPM Associate Director for Retirement and Benefits Bill Zelienski said the agency was determining which areas would benefit from automation, rather than trying to overhaul the entire system in one swoop, GovExec reports.
“We’ve tried to do it all at once,” Berry said. “We’re going to try it a different way.”