Annual Report 2014 | American Foreign Service Association
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10

For large sectors of rural America, maintaining a strong Foreign

Service is vital. While the agency has focused on budget savings,

the USDA faces a potential budget hit of billions of dollars for

farm payments triggered by falling prices. This is the wrong time

to downgrade the Foreign Service, and AFSA has made and will

continue to make this point.

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Retiree Vice

President’s

Report:

Lawrence Cohen

F

ederal benefits remained a cen-

tral issue during 2014. AFSA

joined with other federal employee

associations to press for protection of these benefits, and current

annuitants will likely not experience reductions that would result

from a lower cost-of-living calculator. The focus, however, has

shifted to younger federal employees and new hires who, unfortu-

nately, can look forward to substantially higher pension contribu-

tions and trimmed annuities. We must not only protect the ben-

efits of current retirees but also the benefits of those who, in the

future, following full careers, will themselves become annuitants.

In 2013 the Department of State launched its “centralized”

when-actually-employed (WAE) registry, maintained by the Hu-

man Resources Service Center. Its purpose was to supplement the

current bureau-centric WAE system and widen the pool of quali-

fied, multifunctional job seekers. Such a program could benefit

both the department and retirees. In our view, the central registry

has yet to bear fruit. Anecdotally, we understand that a few retirees

may have been hired off it. But until the department and HR join

the 21st century and establish the type of profile- or resume-based

program used by almost every company, multilateral institution

and NGO, the registry will amount to little more than a list of

names and contact information.

On a positive note, the Foreign Commercial Service has moved

toward its own WAE network. And, incidentally, Foreign Service

retirees from FCS and other foreign affairs agencies are also eli-

gible to seek Department of State WAE work.

Another issue on which we engaged in 2014 is retiree access

to the State Department and its annexes. When visiting these fa-

cilities, retirees ought to be afforded the dignity earned by their

decades of service. AFSA continues to receive stinging comments

from members indicating that respectful access often falls short.

We strongly support activation of the chip in the brown “chipped”

retiree badges to allow passcode access to the department, espe-

cially for retirees who still hold active security clearances. In any

case, no retiree holding an appropriate ID should suffer the indig-

nity of a bag and body search. Unfortunately, progress to date has

been slow on this front.

Other challenges popped up, as well. AFSA learned, for in-

stance, that divorce decrees lacking explicit language regarding a

Foreign Service pension plan may become potential bombshells

upon retirement. The financial implication of this is huge for those

affected. On another matter, for non-seniors who retire from over-

seas assignments, virtual locality pay preserves your full annuity.

However, for WAE work, a surprise may be in store when a lower

pay cap is applied.

In retirement, AFSA has our backs, protects our

Foreign Service legacies and provides powerful net-

working capabilities. But keeping AFSA member-

ship in retirement is not automatic: we urge all retir-

ing members to proactively visit

www.afsa.org

, email

member@afsa.org

or call (202) 338-4045, ext. 520, to

“re-up” your AFSA memberships. For the cost of a

couple Starbucks a month, don’t let retirement separate

you from your FS legacy and network!

There are many ways to stay involved. Volunteer for

an AFSA committee or run for the Governing Board.

We’ll be launching an online AFSA social network

community in 2015 and will need moderators. Please

fill out your AFSA retiree profile. The link is on the

AFSA website. Outside the Washington, D.C., region,

AFSA-affiliated retiree associations exist. Join up. Fi-

nally, consider donating to the AFSA scholarship fund

or leaving a generous bequest in your will or estate.

From one generation to the next...

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AFSA VPs and other board members prepare for AFSA’s annual Advocacy

Day in February 2014.