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.
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 visitwww.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...
AFSA VPs and other board members prepare for AFSA’s annual Advocacy
Day in February 2014.