AFSA Retiree Newsletter - December 2016

In this issue you will find:

  1. Retirees Engaging with the Public and Their Communities
  2. CFC Update
  3. Confused Trying To Compare Your FEHB Costs and Benefits During Open Season?
  4. 2017 Foreign Service Annuitant Newsletter
  5. Make Sure Your Physician Is Still in Your Provider Network
  6. 2017 Retiree Directory
  7. Start the New Year Off Right!

Retirees Engaging with the Public and Their Communities

AFSA continues to emphasize the importance of outreach and public engagement to tell the story of the Foreign Service. There is no better person to tell that story than YOU – the person who devoted their career to the profession. We’d like to highlight some individuals who have participated in exemplary outreach events in the last few weeks.


Amb. Asif Chaudhry

Retired Foreign Agricultural Service Officer Ambassador Asif Chaudhry addressed members of the Colorado Farm Bureau at their 98th Annual Meeting in Denver on November 18. Amb. Chaudhry discussed his upbringing in Pakistan, and his journey from subsistence farming to the Foreign Service, to his final posting as advisor to the Secretary of the Navy. He focused on the importance of global trade in diplomacy and ensuring America’s interests are seen to abroad. He paid particular attention to agricultural trade and the need for U.S. food exports for the developing world. Questions from the audience centered on the potential threat from Russia to his thoughts on bilateral trade deals in the fallout from TPP's failure in Washington, D.C. Ambassador Chaudhry currently serves as Vice President for International Programs at Washington State University.


Amb. Jerry Lanier

During the week of November 6-10, AFSA offered a Road Scholar program in Washington, D.C. with the theme of “Diplomacy in Action: The Middle East, South Asia and Global Terrorism.” We thank the many Foreign Service speakers—Ambassador John Herbst, Ambassador John Limbert, Molly Williamson, Bernard Alter, Richard McKee, David Burger, Ambassador Lawrence Butler, Ambassador R. Grant Smith, Dr. Elizabeth Shelton, Ambassador Henry Ensher and Ambassador E. Ashley Wills—for their participation.

On December 14, retired Ambassador Jerry Lanier spoke to the World Affairs Council of Charleston in South Carolina, discussing foreign policy challenges for the incoming administration and the role of the Foreign Service in protecting and serving America’s people, interests and values. We are hopeful that this is only the first WAC event of many, as AFSA has now partnered with the World Affairs Councils of America on such initiatives.

Finally, on December 7, AFSA welcomed local members to a reception at AFSA headquarters to thank those who participated in AFSA outreach programs in 2016. It was a lovely occasion, during which AFSA President Ambassador Barbara Stephenson and Ambassador (ret.) Pat Butenis spoke about the importance of public outreach and engagement. To all those who took part in our outreach efforts around the country in the last year, we extend our sincere gratitude. If you are interested in participating in AFSA’s outreach efforts, please join the AFSA Speakers Bureau if you have not done so already.

CFC Update

OPM has announced that beginning September 2017, federal retirees will be able to donate to the Combined Federal Campaign via deductions from monthly annuitant payments. OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert has said, “… by adding an easy option to allow our more than 2 million federal annuitants to participate in the CFC through their annuities, we hope to raise even more money for these worthy causes from employees who choose to donate over the course of their career and into retirement.” Unfortunately, that’s not an option for this year’s CFC campaign. We encourage members to keep AFSA's Fund for American Diplomacy in mind as they plan end-of-year charitable donations. The Fund for American Diplomacy, one of AFSA’s two 501(c)(3) arms, supports outreach to tell the proud story of the Foreign Service to the American people. The FAD’s aim is to build a domestic constituency for the Foreign Service so that we have supporters, ideally in all 50 states, prepared to stand up for the Foreign Service and defend our vitally important mission. Donations may be made via www.afsa.org/fad.

Confused Trying To Compare Your FEHB Costs and Benefits During Open Season?

This year’s Open Season for changing your 2017 FEHB health plan closed Monday, December 12. Many AFSA retirees reported challenges navigating the annual rises in their deductibles, copays and premiums as well as changes in their benefits. These annual changes underscore the importance of comparing plans each Open Season, to find plans that best meet your needs at the best cost.

What’s the best way to assess your current FEHB plan and determine if you could benefit by changing to a different FEHB Plan? First, read Section 2 of your current plan’s brochure to see what aspects are changing, double-checking on those benefits of most importance to you. Second, go to “Consumers’ Checkbook,” the quick, comprehensive guide to navigating your FEHB choices. AFSA purchases access to this guidance on behalf of its members during each year’s Open Season, to help you contain your health care costs, particularly in retirement. Some enrollees have reported saving up to $2,000 by shopping around during Open Season. Third, if you determine you wish to change your FEHB plan, submit Form 2809, available on page 3 of the 2017 Foreign Service Annual Annuitant Newsletter.

Don’t fret if you couldn’t make any changes for 2017. Just be “quick off the blocks” in using “Consumers’ Checkbook” for next year’s Open Season, located on the Retiree Services page on the AFSA website. According to FedSmith, the biggest change in FEHB plans offered for 2017 was the growth in the number of plans offering Medicare wraparound benefits for retirees enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B. For more information on the changes to the FEHB plans in 2017 click here.

2017 Foreign Service Annuitant Newsletter

AFSA had heard from many members that they have either not received the 2017 annuitant newsletter, produced by the State Department’s Office of Retirement, or are having a difficult time locating it on State’s website. AFSA has made the newsletter available on its website for ease of access. You can access the 2017 FS annuitant newsletter by clicking here.

Make Sure Your Physician Is Still in Your Provider Network

Members have just been through FEHB Open Season. Some in-plan networks are shrinking as insurers try to contain costs by narrowing those networks. Members need to make sure their physicians are still in their plans’ provider networks. Kaiser Health News reports that many of the directories being used to confirm in-plan networks are outdated and inaccurate. Reliance on them could cost members big bucks if they mistakenly go “out of plan.” Kaiser reports that, “Starting this year, all plans sold through the marketplace are required to, ‘publish an up-to-date, accurate and complete provider directory’ or be subject to penalties or removed from the marketplace portal.” It remains to be seen how effective this will be. Thus, AFSA cautions its members to double check each year directly with your physicians to make sure they are still in your FEHB plan’s network.

2017 Retiree Directory

All retired members in good-standing as of December 1 should receive a copy of the 2017 Directory of Retired Members in early January. This edition of the Directory includes names and contact information for nearly 4,000 of your colleagues. It also has updated contact information for retiree resources, survivor annuity elections, former spouse benefits, Medicare, FEHB, and a new article on assistance after retirement. Please review your listing to be sure we’ve captured the most current information. Any changes can be sent to our Member Services department by clicking here.

Start the New Year Off Right!

Please drop by AFSA’s next networking happy hour on January 5, 2017—to catch up with old friends, connect with new colleagues, and share FS stories and survival tips with your fellow members of the FS family. Non-alcoholic beverages and light snacks will be served; $3 drink tickets for wine and beer will also be available. You may register online or email events@afsa.org.

Questions?

AFSA members should always feel free to be in touch with our Retiree Counselor Todd Thurwachter, who is available by email at retiree@afsa.org or by phone at (202) 944-5509.