The Foreign Service Journal - November 2014 - page 74

74
NOVEMBER 2014
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
A common complaint from
retired State Foreign Service
members has to do with the
State Department’s retiree
access policy for Main State,
department annexes and the
Foreign Service Institute. Or
rather, lack of access.
Longtime retirees may
remember when annuitant
access to the department was
a less onerous, more respect-
ful process.
In the past, FS retirees
received only laminated cards
certifying that the bearer had
completed “XX years of loyal
and meritorious service” for
Uncle Sam!
In 2008, the department
began issuing “chipped”
retiree badges. Many may
have believed these chipped
badges would operate at facil-
ity turnstiles like those of their
active-duty counterparts.
Why else produce them? But
those of you holding these
badges know well that the
chip in the “chipped” badge is
not activated.
AFSA recently asked
annuitants about their experi-
ences with facility access.
We received quite an earful.
Members recounted how the
current access policy and
retiree badge do little to make
the loyal and meritorious
bearer feel welcome.
Some respondents stated
that because of demeaning
treatment—even with the
badge—they do not attend
events at the department.
When It Comes to Facility Access for Retirees,
Mother State Shows No Love
While we recognize security within State Department
facilities is important, retiree access to the department
ought not lead to personal humiliation.
Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA Retiree VP.
Contact:
or (703) 437-7881
One person affirmed that
the retiree badge guarantees
the bearer nothing more
than treatment equal to that
provided to someone off the
street.
Another described how
security guards, in conducting
a thorough search of belong-
ings and person, treated him
like some sort of pariah. (To
be fair, the member com-
mended the courteousness
of the guards as he left the
building.)
Yet another related how
she retired on a Friday and
then found herself feeling
humiliated on Monday after
going through the security
process at Main State. One
person alleged that security
guards go out of their way
to be more demanding of
retirees.
Current policy permits the
bearer of a retiree badge to
receive a security pat-down,
submit to a handbag check,
stand in line at the VIP desk,
engage in the regular sign-in
process, possibly present
another form of government
ID and, once cleared, carry an
“escort required” tag if not
visiting the first-floor service
areas or the Ralph Bunche
library of the HST building.
There are many reasons
to visit State Department
offices, not just to conduct
business at the credit union.
The Career Transition Cen-
ter’s Job Search Program
emphasizes that retirees
“network, network, network”
with former colleagues. But
what if no one picks up the
phone in the office to be
visited?
This happened to a mem-
ber trying to go to the Bureau
of Human Resources Office
of Retirement in SA-1 with his
newly minted retiree card.
“Come back another time,”
said the guard, “and have a
good day.”
While we recognize secu-
rity within State Department
facilities is important, retiree
access to the department
ought not lead to personal
humiliation.
The Department of
Defense appears to do a
better job for its retired
personnel. Retired military
officers may not waltz into
the Pentagon’s most sensitive
areas. However, DOD encour-
ages interaction with military
retirees and treats ID-carrying
retirees considerately when
they visit bases, offices and
commissaries.
The military treats its
retirees with respect; so, too,
should State. No Foreign
Service retiree ought to fear
or fret entry into department
facilities. It is a stretch to
argue Foreign Service annui-
tants are high security risks.
This is most especially true
with recently retired annui-
tants who continue to hold
active security clearances.
AFSA urges the depart-
ment to activate the chipped
retiree badges—especially for
the newly retired—allow their
use at entrance turnstiles,
and keep them active for the
length of the badge’s validity.
Retirees know their way
around Main State and other
facilities quite well and should
not require an escort. Access
procedures at annexes such
as FSI should be eased appro-
priately. No Foreign Service
retiree should be subjected to
bag and body searches.
Mother State could take a
lesson frommilitary service
counterpart institutions
and show some love for its
seniors.
n
RETIREE VP VOICE
| BY LARRY COHEN AFSA NEWS
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