Here's some bad news for both the U.S. Postal Service and postal employees who are eyeing retirement: The federal agency that has caused months of delays in processing retirement applications and issuing benefits checks isn't going to clean up its act any time soon.
The Office of Personnel Management's Retirement and Benefits Office "characterized by lengthy delays in processing claims, might not get much better any time soon," writes Tammy Flanagan of the National Institute of Transition Planning, in a recent Government Executive article. The agency has hired additional employees to work on the backload of claims and eventually hopes to modernize its paper-based processing system.
OPM officials acknowledge that the agency "still processes retirement claims in 2010 much the same way it did in 1920," Flanagan writes.
Downsizing the workforce through attrition, mostly retirements, is a major part of the Postal Service's plan to fix its finances. But the cumbersome process of getting accurate benefits estimates and timely payments deters retirement-eligible employees from calling it quits.
Postal Service retirees report that OPM was overwhelmed by USPS's early-retirement programs last year, with some waiting six months or longer to receive their first payments. (If a private business did that to its retirees, someone would probably end up in jail.)
Such waits have been common since at least the 1980s, Flanagan indicates. Her advice: Employees should save up annual leave in the year they retire so that they will get a lump-sum payment upon quitting that will see them through until the retirement checks start coming.