The Foreign Service Journal - November 2017

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 2017 63 Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA Retiree VP. Contact: | (703) 437-7881 RETIREE VP VOICE | BY JOHN NALAND AFSA NEWS President Donald Trump’s proposed FY 2018 budget seeks to cut several federal retirement benefits. One proposal that would have an impact on current retirees concerns cost-of- living adjustments (COLAs). It has been proposed that COLAs be eliminated alto- gether for retirees in the post- 1983 Foreign Service Pension System retirement system, and reduced by 0.5 percent for retirees in the pre-1984 Foreign Service Retirement and Disability System. Some in Congress also seek to reduce the govern- ment contribution to Federal Employees Health Benefits insurance premiums. Another proposal is to decrease the rate of return of the Thrift Savings Plan’s G Fund. Long-time lobbyists tell AFSA that it is impossible to predict if or when any of these proposals will pass. Each proposal carries with it a projected 10-year budget savings that could be used later this fall in Congressio- nal deals to offset revenue losses in a tax reform bill or to reduce the deficit in a bill to fund the government through the end of FY18. The proposed changes would affect 2.7 million federal employees and 2.6 million federal retirees. The Foreign Service comprises less than one percent of those totals. Further, the congressional committees with jurisdiction over federal benefits are different from the foreign affairs commit- tees with which AFSA has developed strong relations through its decades of advocacy. For these reasons, AFSA’s advocacy on retirement ben- efits is primarily through our active participation in the Federal-Postal Coalition. This grouping is made up of 30 organizations, including the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Associa- tion, the large Civil Service unions and the Senior Executives Association. Combined, those organi- zations represent 5 million federal employees and retir- ees with members living in every congressional district. The Federal-Postal Coali- tion has sent several letters to Congress, with AFSA as co-signatory, opposing cuts to federal retiree benefits. The coalition holds frequent meetings, with AFSA par- ticipation, to plan advocacy efforts. NARFE and the large Civil Service unions meet frequently with members of Congress to argue against benefits cuts. AFSA offi- cers and professional staff members also include talking points on preserving retirement benefits in their discussions with members of Congress and their staffs. If you have read this far into my column, you are obviously concerned about this issue. I have told you what AFSA is doing. But it would also be helpful if individual Foreign Service retirees all around the nation would write, call or meet with their members of Congress to urge them not to cut their constituents’ hard-earned retirement benefits. Let us know if you do so, and if you receive a response. Q NewAssociate Editor Joins the Journal ! As Gemma Dvorak departs AFSA for an overseas posting with her FS spouse, Donna Scaramastra Gorman joins The Foreign Service Journal as associate editor, responsible for AFSA News. Donna is a writer whose work has been published in Time Magazine, Newsweek, The Washington Pos t, the Christian Science Monitor, the Huffington Post and many other outlets. She is the author of the book Am I Going to Starve To Death?: A Survival Guide For the For- eign Service Spouse (2015). Donna is married to Diplomatic Security Special Agent Bart Gorman, who is currently posted at DS headquarters. They, along with their four children, have previously been posted in Moscow (twice), Yerevan, Almaty, Beijing and Amman. Like many FS spouses, Donna has held multiple overseas jobs: She’s been an assistant public affairs offi- cer, a human rights report- ing assistant, a community liaison office coordinator, a consular associate, a news- letter editor, a Leahy vetting assistant and a group fit- ness instructor. Donna has a master’s degree in Slavic languages and literatures. Before fol- lowing her husband into the Foreign Service, she worked at BBDO Worldwide adver- tising agency. If she can ever convince him to retire, she plans to move anyplace where it doesn’t snow. Q New FSJ Associate Editor Donna Gorman Threats to Your Retirement Benefits