Page 67 - Foreign Service Journal - September 2013

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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
|
SEPTEMBER 2013
67
Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA Retiree VP.
Contact:
lawrencecohenassociates@hotmail.com
or (703) 437-7881
RETIREE VP VOICE | BY LARRY COHEN AFSA NEWS
First, I wish to express our
deep appreciation for the
service of my predecessor
as the AFSA VP for Retirees,
Mary Ellen Gilroy. Thanks,
Meg, for all that you have
done for retirees and for
AFSA. As your new vice presi-
dent for retirees, I would like
to introduce myself by giving
an overview of my Foreign
Service career and ofer a
vision for my tenure.
After 27 years in the
Foreign Service, I retired
in 2007. My assignments
included Monterrey, Tegu-
cigalpa, Chennai, Budapest,
Lagos and Brasilia, as well
as the provincial reconstruc-
tion teams in Bamiyan and
Herat, Afghanistan. In the
department, I served in the
Bureaus of Economic and
Business Afairs; Oceans,
Environmental and Scientifc
Afairs; and the O ce of the
Special Adviser to the Presi-
dent and Secretary of State
for Assistance for the Newly
Independent States. My last
assignment was on the Board
of Examiners.
Since retiring, I have
split my eforts between
the Department of State
and the private sector. My
professional focus has been
largely, but not exclusively,
on Afghanistan during vari-
ous When Actually Employed
opportunities. So far, I have
presented or facilitated
courses at the Foreign Ser-
vice Institute and at USAID,
served as desk o cer in
the Bureau of Near Eastern
Afairs, and am completing a
temporary duty assignment
in Erbil as I draft this column.
In general terms, I see
three core areas for advocacy
and action:
• The decision to move the
WAE program to a central
registry is long overdue, but
a step in the right direction.
This should make it easier for
retirees to identify possible
assignments, while realizing
some savings for the depart-
ment. However, unless the
process is transparent and
fair, it will not be enough.
Changes to the WAE stric-
tures concerning pay and the
caps on hours worked should
be our ultimate goal.
• AFSA membership among
retirees is distressingly low.
It is the responsibility of all
retiree members to encour-
age our colleagues to join. A
major fallof occurs during
the fnal checkout process,
as new retirees are unaware
that AFSA membership must
be proactively renewed—this
happened to me. So far, the
department has not made
changes to this process.
• Finally, retirees need to
protect their own benefts.
Most serious, perhaps, is the
pernicious rise in health care
expenses, which are out of
proportion to any cost-of-liv-
ing increases for retirees. For
this, we need to help AFSA
maintain pressure on Capitol
Hill and the administration.
Thank you in advance for
your support and guidance.
Feel free to share your ideas,
critiques, complaints, com-
ments and casual observa-
tions. I look forward to work-
ing with AFSA’s Governing
Board and professional staf
on your behalf.
n
WAE, Engaging Retirees and Protecting Benefts
SPEAKER SER I ES
Divorce in the Foreign Service: Pitfalls, Issues and Regs
BY DONNA AYERST,
AFSA NEWS
EDI TOR
On July 30, AFSA hosted the sixth installment of its Speaker
Series on Federal Benefts. AFSA and the Department of
State’s Divorce Working Group presented a seminar and panel
discussion on the sensitive yet important topic of divorce in
the Foreign Service.
Susan Frost, director of the Family Liaison O ce, moder-
ated the panel discussion, which featured Daniel Hirsch,
management o cer and former AFSA State vice president;
Elizabeth Royal, work-life specialist; Jacqueline Long, chief
policy adviser of the O ce of Retirement; and Sharon Zaro-
zny, founder of Brilliant Exits LLC, a divorce consulting and
support group.
Divorce is something that happens to almost 50 percent of
marriages. In most cases, it is a di cult process at best. It can
be fnancially devastating, it can wreck one’s self esteem, and
we haven’t even mentioned the kids, which can be the most
heart-wrenching aspect of it all.
But it doesn’t have to be all-out war. If marriage therapy
fails and divorce is the only alternative, many couples turn to
mediation, rather than heading straight to a lawyer.
Of course, this presumes that you have access to ser-
vices—in Kinshasa, or Caracas, or Kathmandu? Yes, a divorce
in the Foreign Service is a diferent animal all together.
The resource experts that comprised AFSA’s panel shared
some very good suggestions. But the one bit of advice they
all agreed as most important: time your separation between
tours.
Most of the discussion focused on the many Foreign Ser-
vice regulations that make your divorce diferent than your
cousin’s in Kansas. The event provided time for questions
and the opportunity to understand some of the more arcane
regulations.
Divorce continued on page 83