NEWS OF THE WEIRD

JOB SECURITY IN THE PAPERWORK MINE

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"The trucks full of paperwork come every day," wrote The Washington Post in March, down a country road in Boyers, Pa., north of Pittsburgh, and descend "into the earth" to deliver federal retiree applications to the eight supermarket-sized caverns 230 feet below ground where Office of Personnel Management bureaucrats process them — manually — and store them in 28,000 metal filing cabinets. Applications thus take 61 days on average to process (compared to Texas' automated system, which takes two). One step requires a record's index to be digitized — but a later step requires that the digital portion be printed out for further manila-foldered file work. OPM blames contractors' technology failures and bizarrely complicated retirement laws, but no relief is in sight except the hiring of more workers. Fortunately, cave-bound paper-shuffling is a well-regarded job around Boyers.

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