The Foreign Service Journal - October 2017

58 OCTOBER 2017 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL STAY INFORMED. STAY CONNECTED. AFSA Visits Retirees in the Midwest As part of AFSA’s visit to Minnesota’s FarmFest in August (see page 54), retired Foreign Service Offi- cer Bill Davnie arranged for a group of 15 foreign affairs retirees from the Upper Midwest Chapter to meet with AFSA President Ambas- sador Barbara Stephenson, Governing Board Retiree Representative Phil Shull and AFSA Outreach Coordi- nator Catherine Kannenberg in Minneapolis. Amb. Stephenson briefed the group on changes in Washington, D.C., and reminded them that there is now strong bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for maintaining an effective and well- resourced Foreign Service. The group included numerous members who are active speakers with programs or organizations such as Great Decisions, The Humphrey School, Rotary Clubs and high schools. Several support AFSA’s strategic partner, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition by serving on USGLC’s state advisory board for Minnesota. Minnesota is one of the top five states to receive foreign visitors. Foreign Service retir- ees also support Global Ties, another of AFSA’s strategic partners. The state’sWorld Affairs Council/Global Ties affiliate runs the Great Deci- sions series, hosting individual programs in various venues around the Twin Cities area— almost half of which feature retired FSOs as speakers. —Catherine Kannenberg, Outreach Coordinator Take Charge of Your Retirement Benefits During my service as director of the State Department’s Office of Retirement, I spent a lot of time helping employees and retirees get out of holes they had dug for themselves due to insufficient knowledge of laws and regulations gov- erning retirement benefits. I know that you have better things to do in retirement than study the Foreign Service Act, but you owe it to yourself and your family to do due diligence in key areas. First, promptly report to the State Department any change in your marital status due to marriage, divorce or death. Delays in reporting changes will delay—and may permanently prevent—adjust- ments in benefits such as the survivor annuity and FEHB health insurance coverage. Ensure that your next-of- kin knows how to promptly report your death so that survivor’s benefits may be paid. Official instructions are found in the Office of Retire- ment’s Foreign Service Annual Annuitant Newsletter at under the “What’s New?” tab. I suggest downloading those instructions and placing them alongside your will. The AFSA Retiree Directory has a resources section to help you and your loved ones navigate survivor and other retirement issues. Second, keep your Foreign Service retirement account up-to- date by using the Annuitant Express website. There you can update your mailing address, direct deposit account and tax withholdings. You can also view your annuity state- ments and 1099-R. Instructions for accessing Annuitant Express are found in the annuitant newsletter. Third, if you need to file a Foreign Service Pension SystemAnnuity Supplement earnings report or are con- sidering changing your health insurance provider during the late-year open season, the deadlines and forms will be in the 2018 Annuitant Newslet- ter, which should be posted online in mid-November. Finally, check out AFSA’s retiree page: members/retireeservices.We try to help you make smart retirement decisions that save you money in the long run. If you do encounter problems with your federal retirement benefits or have related questions, AFSA’s Retiree Counselor Todd Thur- wachter can be reached at and (202) 944-5509. I can be reached at —John K. Naland, AFSA Retiree Vice President AFSA Welcomes Retiree Outreach Coordinator As a part of AFSA’s ongoing effort to increase outreach and help our retiree members get more involved, AFSA is pleased to welcome Christine Miele to the team. As the new retiree out- reach coordinator, Christine has reached out to existing Foreign Service retiree asso- ciations, with the objective of supporting retirees’ partici- pation in local outreach and advocacy efforts. You can find a full listing of these groups at associations. If you would like to tell AFSA about the great work of your association, get more involved in local outreach and advocacy efforts, or even start a new group in your area, please contact Christine at . n AFSA President Ambassador Barbara Stephenson speaks to retirees in Minneapolis, Minnesota, briefing them on changes in Washington, D.C., and listening to their comments and suggestions. AFSA/CATHERINEKANNENBERG