Washington Post: Federal retirees wait months for payments, as OPM backlog drags on

One thing about raising cattle — cows do what they are supposed to do when they are supposed to do it.

Unfortunately, John W. Wendt, who works with his herd every day, can’t say the same thing about the Office of Personnel Management.

Until almost a year ago, Wendt also labored for Uncle Sam. The retired federal employee now works on his cattle and grain farm in Ledger, Mont., a sparsely populated place about 50 miles south of the Canadian border. He put in 16 years with the government before retiring as a heavy equipment operator from Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation last December.

A pleasant man with an easy laugh, Wendt liked working for the government, but he doesn’t like the way he’s been treated since he left.

“I retired December 31 of 2010 and I have yet to get my retirement,” he said by phone. “They are sending me an interim payment of $104” instead of the approximately $700 monthly amount he said he is due.

Wendt is not alone. A couple of weeks ago, the backlog of retired federal workers waiting to have their retirement claims processed was 60,000. In an interview this week, OPM Director John Berry said the number is down to about 51,000. The backlog fluctuates, and Berry expects it to be “ginormous” in January, when many people file for retirement. A year ago, the number was about 40,000.

While their claims are being processed, retirees such as Wendt get an interim payment, generally a fraction of the full amount. It can be a long wait.

Berry has an 18-month goal to reduce the processing time to 60 days. It now averages 133 days, though Wendt’s case took much longer. To reach his goal, Berry has added 35 retirement staffers and has plans for least 40 more.

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