The Foreign Service Journal - March 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2018 27 Problems Grow Families are feeling even more frus- trated as the problems continue to build and MED remains silent. It’s not only nearly impossible to work with MED to develop flexible solutions, parents say, it is also getting harder to get accurate information about how MED makes its decisions and what, if any, procedures it is following. There is also a problem with appealing decisions, as there is no good appeals procedure in place. Parents are facing increasing pres- sure to keep their children in the United States, often having to choose between their career or keeping the family together. For instance, Class 5 medical clearances, which restrict the child to living in the United States, are becom- ing more commonplace. In many cases, dependents are given Class 5 in spite of their doctor’s opinion that they would be fine overseas, and despite the fact that the parents have provided evidence that they can obtain the services they need at post. Some parents say this is an “easy way out” for MED, since the family is no lon- ger its responsibility once they have been forced to return stateside. One Foreign Service parent navigating the SNEA com- plexities offered a possible explanation: “My impression is that MED has a chronic staffing shortage, and their response is to lighten case workload by pressuring or forcing folks to return to D.C. for PCS [permanent change of station] assign- ments.” The disconnect between MED and the families they serve is greater than ever. Whereas each family used to be assigned a case worker to deal with directly, today any inquiries go to a MED distribution group and are answered with an auto reply. One parent noted that this “hide- and-seek” makes it difficult to plan— whether it is for SNEA travel, PCS or authorization for a new therapy. Parents who have worked with MED for many years and have had clear, longstanding and previously approved support must now wait for months to get answers, and they are often shocked to learn that MED has arbitrarily cut the ser- vices that had been supporting their chil- dren in years past, services that allowed them to live successfully overseas. Other parents say MED leaves them feeling like bad parents, blaming them for irresponsibly taking their children abroad. Many parents feel that MED is no longer helpful or concerned about their child’s welfare, and they are desperate for changes in how the system is currently running. MED has not responded to several requests to explain its side of the story, claiming the bureau is too short-staffed to take the time to address these issues, which they feel have already been addressed. Leaving families with an infor- mation vacuumwhile the backlog grows and decisions about our children are made, seemingly arbitrarily and without our input, is not helping at all. Besides causing unnecessary stress and strain on families, this situation has caused several families I’ve spoken with to rethink their careers in the Foreign Service. As one Foreign Service mother explained: “I have 16 years in the Foreign Service, but I am honestly considering quitting after this tour. I don’t want to be held hostage to MED anymore.” Potential new hires will think twice about joining if their families won’t be supported. Take AFSA With You! Change your address online, visit us at address Or Send changes to: AFSAMembership Department 2101 E Street NW Washington, DC 20037 Moving?