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Retiree Access, Step by Step



ccess to various State Depart-

ment buildings—Main

State (HST), SA-1 (medical

and retirement offices) and

the National Foreign Affairs Training

Center—is an issue of serious concern

for retirees. I don’t know how the other

foreign affairs agencies acknowledge

their retirees; but if they are anything

like the State Department, their retir-

ees may share some of the concerns I

discuss here.

The type of ID the State Department

issues to those who retire has evolved

greatly since the laminated card with

printed gold braid edging noting the

retiree’s name, date of retirement and

years of service issued to my husband

when he retired from State in 1986.

Today State retirees receive a bronze-

colored ID card valid for five years that

mimics non-retiree cards, complete

with computer chip and magnetic strip

on the back, neither of which appear to

be activated and therefore do not work.

Maybe it’s the thought that counts.

So what, precisely, is the thought

behind issuing a badge to retirees? In

theory, and according to a 2008 Depart-

ment Notice, the badge allows the retiree

limited access to three floors of HST and

to the retirement and medical offices at

SA-1. When presented at the VIP Desk

Though I chose to treat it as an adventure

rather than a frustration, the renewal

process points to the inadequacy of State’s

policies regarding retiree access.

Mary Ellen T. (“MEG”) Gilroy joined the U.S. Information Agency as a Foreign Service

officer in 1983 and retired from the State Department in 2009. She served in Haiti

(twice), Morocco, Malaysia, Mauritius, Canada, Barbados andWashington, D.C.

She is a former retiree representative and vice president on the AFSA Governing

Board (2011-2013).

in the C Street Lobby, the badge entitles

one to a limited-access unescorted visi-

tor’s badge, which must remain visible at

all times one is in the building.

That’s fine—as far as it goes. But,

given the restrictions, the fact that it isn’t

fully activated and the complicated pro-

cedure for renewal, one has to wonder

why State can’t do better.

My Renewal Adventure

Take the renewal procedure, for

instance. Last fall, I vowed to renew my

soon-to-expire Department of State

[Retired] ID badge. After searching the

websites of and state.

gov, I discovered that the only source of

information on the renewal process was!

Then, early one afternoon, well before

rush hour and equipped with several

rolls of quarters for any parking meter

I might find, a printout from the AFSA

website, my valid Virginia driver’s license

and my valid (for another month) badge,

I set out for Foggy Bottom.

The mission began auspiciously on

22nd Street with an open (and legal)

parking spot. I was also wearing a

pedometer and looked forward to con-

tributing to my daily 10,000 steps during

the renewal process. (Multitasking never

dies in the Foreign Service.)

Knowing that the 21st Street “Jogger’s

Entrance” was a few steps from Room

B-266 (the badging office), I approached

one of the uniformed Diplomatic Secu-

rity officers on duty. He welcomed me

back most kindly, but had never before

seen a retiree ID badge and very politely

directed me to the C Street Visitor’s


At C Street, after being welcomed

back again by other, equally polite, DS

officers, I went through the standard

visitor’s security check before entering

the lobby to obtain a limited-access une-

scorted visitor’s badge at the VIP desk.

(The first time I had returned to HST

after retiring, I stood in the general visi-

tors queue only to discover after waiting

15 minutes that I was in the wrong line

and was redirected to the VIP Desk. I

never considered myself a VIP and was

quite moved that after almost 27 years of

service, State had designated me as such.)