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Retirement Services for Federal Employees


The Office of Personnel Management administers the Civil Service Retirement System and Federal Employees Retirement System—benefits that those who have dedicated some of all of their careers to public service are entitled to. Many federal employees, retirees, and their families rely on the annuities and other benefits that OPM provides for financial security in their retirement. 

Customers engage with OPM at various stages before and after their retirement. They ask questions, search for information to help them plan for retirement, submit a retirement application and manage their benefits. 

The retirement process is complex and involves many decisions. OPM is working to develop a guide with information about the timeline and stages of retirement to usher customers through the process.  

Applying for retirement continues to be a complex paper-based process, although the agency is working to develop an online retirement application process.

Service Overview and Data Highlights

Service Overview

OPM Retirement Services is responsible for administering the retirement programs and benefits available to federal employees. OPM works in conjunction with human resources offices at federal agencies to process employees’ retirement paperwork. Once federal employees leave their agency, separate from government and become retirees, OPM assumes responsibility for their human resource needs, such as annuity payments and health and life insurance benefits. As of fiscal 2021, OPM served a population of 2.7 million. 

Primary Customers

Federal employees approaching retirement, retirees, survivors, and their families. 

Key Services

  • Answers to questions about federal retirement policies and benefits. 
  • Retirement application adjudication. 
  • Survivor benefit application processing.
  • Delivery of retirement and survivor annuity payments. 
  • Management of federal benefits—such as health and life insurance—after retirement. 

Service Snapshot (all data for fiscal 2021)

  • 1.68 million retirement-related phone calls received.1 
  • 1.33 million retirement-related phone calls handled, or 79.5% of calls.  
  • Average wait time for calls: 10.7 minutes.2  
  • 89,656 retirement claims processed.3  
  • Average processing time: 79 days.4   

Data Highlights

~300,000 more

unique users of Services Online accounts in fiscal 2021 than fiscal 2020.   

79 days

Average processing time for retirement claims was 79 days in fiscal 2021, compared with OPM’s goal of 60 days, and extended to 94 days in September 2021, the longest processing time of the fiscal year.  

Customer Insights

Customer Insights


(if applicable)

Improvement from 2021

Room for Improvement

Customers can have difficulty understanding the complex retirement process and the decisions they need to make, so OPM is working to further streamline information and make it more easily available.

Preparing for retirement is a complicated process that should start long before federal employees submit their retirement applications. Employees also continue to make retirement-related decisions long afer their application has been reviewed and processed.  

Customer research at OPM has shown that some customers feel they do not receive sufficient information about retirement before beginning the process, which can cause frustration and make it more difficult to make informed decisions, according to agency officials.  To address this concern, OPM has several initiatives underway to make retirement information more comprehensive and accessible.  

Using its customer research, the agency is developing a retirement guide that lays out the timeline and all the stages of the retirement process in one place. In addition to creating this new resource to usher applicants through the process, OPM is updating the content on its retirement services website. Using feedback from call center inquiries, the agency aims to clarify the information that most often causes customers to ask questions. Providing more streamlined and easily accessible information to customers online may also enable OPM customer service staff to devote more attention to complex questions rather than routine inquiries. 

Customers cannot currently file for retirement online, although OPM is developing an online retirement application.

Federal employees are currently only able to apply for retirement through a paper-based process, but OPM is working to develop an online application process to improve the customer experience.   

Retirement application processing times are longer than customers expect.

OPM seeks to process and approve retirement applications within 60 days. However, the average processing time was 79 days in fiscal 2021.5  

Customers expect shorter processing times—shorter even than the agency’s goal of 60 days, according to agency officials. OPM is working with agencies to ensure they are equipped to help customers submit complete retirement applications to enable smoother and quicker processing and is also hiring to increase the size of the staff available to process applications.  

Delivering Services Equitably

Delivering Services Equitably

According to OPM’s Equity Action Plan released in January 2022, the agency is continuing to prioritize educating federal employees about the importance of retirement savings for achieving financial security, with a focus on employees from communities that have historically lacked equal access to financial opportunities. As a part of this effort, OPM provides training, including regular virtual training opportunities, to federal agencies on sharing retirement readiness resources with agency employees in an equitable way.  

In light of the current hybrid work environment, and in line with the agency’s overall commitment to improving accessibility and reducing administrative burden, in 2022 OPM issued new guidance to agencies to allow the use of electronic signatures on all retirement application forms, with no additional documentation required in most cases. This change makes permanent a flexibility that was first introduced in 2020.  

Another OPM Retirement Services initiative aimed at promoting more equitable outcomes for its customers is focused on evaluating the agency’s website. For example, the agency revised the Retirement Services landing page to make it easier for customers to navigate and find the information they need.

The Retirement Information Center also has Spanish-speaking employees who can communicate with Spanish-speaking customers. For other languages, translation services are available through a contractor.  

  1. OPM Annual Performance Report, Fiscal Year 2021. Retrieved from
  2. Ibid.
  3. OPM Retirement Claims Monthly Processing Statistics. Retrieved from
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.

This customer experience profile was produced by the Partnership for Public Service, in collaboration with Accenture Federal Services.

Read the corresponding report Designing a Government for the People

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