Efforts to get federal retirees their first full benefit checks quicker have been met with backsliding because of the sequester.

A concerted drive by the federal Office of Personnel Management that started in January 2012 to slash the average processing time for claims from over five months had a significant impact.

But delays have rebounded after the sequester led OPM to end overtime for that staff and shrink call center hours.

Bottom line: The number of claims processed has fallen by more than a third since the government-wide budget cuts took effect.

“That is exactly what we predicted would happen. This is a huge setback in an otherwise successful story,” said National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) Legislative Director Jessica Klement.

She noted complaints about retirement claims from NARFE members had dropped significantly to 25 to 35 per week, only to rise to 75 to 100 weekly recently.

Klement said interim annuity checks are still getting in the hands of recent retirees quickly but they can be as low as $14, even though the temporary payouts are supposed to be 40 percent and more.

Exacerbating the problems with federal retirees getting their money is OPM’s deserved reputation as an IT backwater. Regularly, claims paper files are sent en mass from Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C. Once a truck carrying the documents was in an accident and 400 cases were lost.