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Murkowski: Alaskan Federal Retirees Facing 6-9 Months Without Benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With up to 10 percent of Alaska’s federal employees estimated to be retiring by year’s end, Senator Lisa Murkowski is pushing the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to fix its broken system for distributing and processing retirement benefits which currently are running at a 6 to 9 month backlog.

Because of an expiring provision in how pension benefits are calculated, federal employees in Alaska are expected to retire at a higher rate than normal at the end of this year. But the long lag time in receiving payments creates a huge amount of uncertainty for Alaskan workers.

In a letter to the OPM Director (attached), Murkowski points out the serious issues, writing:

  • “It is taking between 172 and 291 days for OPM to process retired federal employees’ paperwork and there is currently a backlog of about 40,000 pending retirement cases.  Both of these numbers are unacceptable.”
  • “This is particularly concerning in my home state of Alaska, where the federal government accounts for about 25 percent of the workforce.”
  • “OPM began working in January 2012 to upgrade its systems to process retirement annuities more quickly, but those updates are still seven months away, and retiring federal employees in Alaska simply cannot wait for these upgrades to be put in place.”

How we got here:  The window for exercising a beneficial change in how retirement pay is calculated for government workers in Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories is closing at the end of this year, leading many to take the offer.

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