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Customer service is at the core of everything we do at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The President’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal released this week embraces that core principle and provides additional funding for OPM’s efforts to improve customer service for Federal retirees and their families.
Each year, more than 1.5 million current or retired Federal employees and their families call OPM’s Retirement Services team with a wide range of questions. We also receive more than 280,000 questions via email and more than 100,000 new retirement claims each year. Requests for assistance range from tax questions to inquiries about what happens when a Federal retiree has passed away. And we hear from Federal employees who have detailed questions at each step in the retirement process.
Each of these interactions is important, and every one of these individuals is entitled to a timely, accurate, and detailed response. At OPM, we are consistently working to improve the quality of this experience for our customers. The President’s budget provides additional funding to help us decrease the amount of time a customer has to wait to talk to a representative or get a response to their email. And, the added resources will help us reduce the time it takes to process a retirement claim.
At Retirement Services, 80 percent of our budget is devoted to personnel. But, at certain times in the year that is not enough and we need to add to our customer service staff to help handle spikes in retirement claims.
For example, the beginning of each year is the busiest, with 26 percent of retirement claims being filed during the first six weeks of the year. In January, we brought detailees on board from the human resources retirement sections of the United States Postal Service (USPS) and from the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) to help us handle the dramatic increase in claims.
While we certainly benefit from the dedication of these public servants, their service also improves the entire retirement process. When they return to their home agencies, they bring with them increased knowledge of our process, enabling them to better prepare retirement claims for processing by OPM.
We are constantly working to improve the customer experience. We are administering surveys and analyzing the data to identify customer service trends and to zero in on areas where improvement and change is needed. We are also updating our training and are tracking the progress of employees who take our customer service courses.
Retirement Services is also consistently upgrading and adding features to our Retirement Services Online website servicesonline.opm.gov and providing web-based tutorials for customers. Retirees can use the website to update their mailing addresses, change their Federal and state income tax withholding designations, request a duplicate annuity booklet or print their Retirement Services ID card. The more retirees and their families turn to our online services for basic needs, the quicker our team can respond to more complex questions.
We want the customer service experience to be excellent for each Federal employee who has served this great nation and deserves to receive accurate and timely benefits. The President’s FY2017 budget will help us deliver on this important goal.
At OPM, our Retirement Services staff works hard each and every day to provide the best customer service we can to our Federal retirees and their families. I know that as tax season approaches and the new cost of living increases take effect, many of our annuitants have questions.
I also know that the phone lines to RS can be especially busy now. So I want to make sure you know about our Services Online website. This portal is easy to navigate and allows retirees to access their retirement accounts 24/7. Retirees can update mailing addresses and change their Federal and state income tax withholding. We’re always updating this website, based in large part on your feedback and requests. For example, retirees can now request a duplicate annuity booklet from Services Online. Also new is a feature that allows retirees to look at and print their Retirement Services ID Cards.
Signing up is easy. If you have a Civil Service Annuity or Civil Service Final Number, you can use this portal. Once you’re on the login page, you can request a password by email or regular mail and set up your account. You will then have immediate access to Services Online.
If you want to get an early start on filing your taxes, you can go to Services Online and print your 1099R, the form retirees need to complete their filings. The system also includes information from the past two years if you need previous tax information. Otherwise, watch your mailbox. The 1099R forms for 2014 will be mailed by January 30, 2015.
As I said, there’s a new cost of living, or COLA, rate. It was reflected in the January 2, 2015 payments. The COLA increase was 1.7 percent for retirees. The full increase is paid to retirees who began receiving retirement payments on or before December 30, 2014. You can get more information about the COLA increases on our website.
As always, we look forward to continuing to serve our retirees and their families. We appreciate and are thankful for their years of dedication to public service. We are always looking for new and innovative ways to provide more accessibility for our annuitants to get the information they need, when they need it.
Let us know how we can better serve you. And stay tuned, there’s more to come.
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