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Let me begin by thanking all

retired members who voted

in the election, and espe-

cially those who supported

me. I would also like to thank

my opponents for their

positive and issue-oriented

campaigns. Larry Cohen and

Charlie Ray have contributed

much to AFSA in the past

and will continue to do so.

I see my responsibili-

ties as supporting you for

the next two years in three

dimensions: retail, wholesale

and existential. By retail, I

mean the individual bureau-

cratic difficulties that inevi-

tably occur in retirement

administration. Let me give

you an instructive personal


My wife and I have a child

disabled since birth by cere-

bral palsy. In 2004, I filed for

Getting Started





I see my responsibilities as supporting you

for the next two years in three dimensions:

retail, wholesale and existential.

Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA Retiree VP.


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a certificate of incapacity

from the Office of Medical

Services so that Catherine

could remain under our gov-

ernment health insurance

policy for her lifetime, as the

law provides.

Initially, Catherine was

granted such a certificate,

the coverage of which

was limited to two years. I

immediately appealed on the

basis that cerebral palsy is

a permanent condition and

the certificate of incapacity

should, likewise, be perma-

nent. It was granted.

This past summer, the

director of the Retirement

Office, John Naland, who has

been extraordinarily helpful

and supportive of all of us in

that position, called to say

that Catherine’s certificate

of incapacity had expired in

2006, and that I needed to

obtain a permanent


I had an instant vision

of my future widow being

presented with a huge bill

for insurance improperly

paid by the government and

Catherine being tossed out

of our Foreign Service Ben-

efit Plan. I rushed to my files,

quickly found the hard copy

of the permanent certificate

of incapacity and forwarded

a copy to John, who ensured

that it was placed in my elec-

tronic retirement record.

The lessons of this

vignette are:

• Keep hard paper

copies of all important

documents—life insurance

designations, certificates of

incapacity and the like.

• The transition in the

last 10 years from paper to

electronic records has inevi-

tably led to some mistakes.

When you retire, make sure

that the electronic record is


• The retirement pro-

cess itself is a fragile time.

Pay particular attention to

all details—especially the

financial and legacy matters

that have an impact on you

and your family in retirement

and beyond.

If, in spite of your and

the system’s best efforts,

post-retirement problems

emerge, AFSA has two staff

retirement counselors, four

retiree representatives and

myself. We are all ready to

assist in any way we can.

I am confident that we will

be successful in most of the

matters with which we deal.

However, not all problems

are soluble. If we hit a brick

wall, we will inform you of

the efforts we have made

and the reasons we cannot

“win the case.”We may not

win them all, but we will

certainly fight them all.

In subsequent columns,

I will be discussing with

you the wholesale (defense

of statutory benefits) and

existential (defense of the

Foreign Service) dimensions

of our portfolio. Challenges

in these areas are the sever-

est I have seen in 50 years of

AFSA involvement.

There is much to do; let’s

get started. We are in this



Marixell Garcia (left) and Clint Brewer, members of the largest-ever

incoming class of Foreign Commercial Service officers, sign up for

AFSA membership during a welcome luncheon at AFSA headquarters

on June 8.

Growing FCS Ranks