Besides camaraderie, there are paths to engagement and advocacy, access to unique practical information and assistance—and it’s a good deal!
BY DOLORES BROWN
When I left the Foreign Service to move to a farm in rural Maine, I canceled my AFSA membership. Life has a way of changing plans, and when I resumed my AFSA membership I found that it reopened windows into a valued community of friends and former colleagues. Writing has been a part of my life, and AFSA provides opportunities for authors to showcase their own work and to learn about the work of others.
—Louis Sell, Maine
I knew when I retired in 2018 that I wanted to stay in touch with my profession. For the camaraderie alone, I didn’t think twice about re-upping my AFSA membership. But I found there is a lot more to be gained than professional ties.
I am now your retirement benefits counselor, so am unabashedly writing from an insider’s perch. But I’m also still far enough into my first years as a retiree to look dispassionately at the reasons to remain in AFSA. Perhaps it’s best to start by relaying to you what we’ve been working on lately, all of which came about with input from you.
We heard, for example, from recent retirees embarking on teaching careers about what a heavy lift it is to put together new curricula. In response, AFSA established a Teaching Diplomacy (and associated topics) page (afsa.org/teaching-diplomacy), which is a sharing space for teaching resources. And we hosted a networking event for practitioners and aspirants to meet, and a panel featuring your colleagues who have made a successful transition to teaching. Why should our members start from scratch when such a rich brain trust exists?
This idea morphed into a broad AFSA programmatic series, “Next Stage,” which focuses on follow-on careers for the Foreign Service. Besides the panel on teaching, AFSA sponsored events on careers in private industry, writing and security—all featuring your peers offering invaluable insights into how to make the transition from government.
On another note, after receiving many calls requesting information on basic retirement issues, we realized we could fill the gap for members who have lost access to their agencies’ intranets by broadening AFSA’s online retirement services to include a one-stop shop (afsa.org/retirement-services). The page includes ALDACs from State on retirement issues and other basic information. We also redesigned the annual Directory of Retired Members to include a front section with answers to the “top hits” among questions we receive, so this information will now be at your fingertips.
And if all else fails, you can always call AFSA when you run into a systemic problem or need individualized assistance: this is the heart of AFSA’s retirement services. Over recent months, for instance, AFSA heard from members recounting their difficulty in escorting family members into the service areas at the Department of State, something they had been able to do for at least the last 20 years. AFSA brought this to Diplomatic Security, which quickly confirmed the policy and instructed its guards accordingly. We also regularly help those who run into difficulty getting timely answers to complex retirement issues, and we often provide support to the families of deceased FS members who don’t know who to call about annuity and life insurance issues.
I have found the daily news briefs from AFSA something I look forward to reading every day. The issues continue to interest me and the compilation of news about the administration, and State in particular, from a variety of sources is very well presented. I appreciate the services AFSA offers to retirees to assist with general and individual questions concerning benefits such as health insurance. Knowing we have someone to reach out to who understands these things is a huge relief.
—Barbara Simpson, Florida
To give you a sense of the full scope of our activities, here is a quick rundown of other benefits:
• AFSA helps you to stay plugged into your unique past, profession and pals. The Foreign Service Journal and the Daily Media Digest are two curated tools to keep you abreast of FS news. AFSA also keeps members plugged into 18 local associations where you can meet with your colleagues. Finally, you can attend events virtually through videos or at AFSA headquarters, including a host of events around Foreign Service Day.
• AFSA helps you stay engaged and advocating. You, too, are the Voice of the Foreign Service. You can join AFSA’s Speakers Bureau or do local outreach to amplify the story of the Foreign Service in your community, and AFSA will arm you with up-to-date talking points, short explainer videos and other material. Remaining in AFSA also supports AFSA’s advocacy on the Hill to support the Foreign Service and protect our earned benefits.
• AFSA helps you stay smart. Our Federal Benefits series, for example, is particularly helpful because many financial advisers beyond the Beltway are not familiar with federal benefits, much less those applicable to the Foreign Service. And in addition to the one-stop shop, AFSA’s bimonthly Retirement Newsletter rounds out AFSA’s special offerings.
• And, AFSA’s a great deal: Depending on the grade at which you retire, your AFSA dues will decrease by around one-third to one-half.