In this issue you will find:
- Updated Retiree Benefits Information
- Retirement Planning
- Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB)
- Upcoming Presentation: Reviewing Your Retirement Plan
- The Foreign Service Journal Seeking Notes to the New Administration
- Get Involved: Join AFSA’s Outreach Campaign
- Support AFSA This December
- TSP Webinars
Updated Retiree Benefits Information
The 2021 Foreign Service Annual Annuitant Newsletter published by State Department’s Office of Retirement is online at https://RNet.state.gov under the “What’s New?” tab and on the AFSA website at www.afsa.org/retirement-services. The 35-page newsletter includes important reminders on benefits issues including how to report post-retirement marriage or divorce and instructions on how your next-of-kin can apply for survivors’ benefits. Retirees who want to change their FEHB coverage will find the form that must be submitted by December 14. Retirees receiving the FSPS annuity supplement will find the form that must be submitted by January 11 reporting any 2020 wage (W-2 and/or 1099-MISC) income.
AFSA’s 2021 Directory of Retired Members is now in the mail. In addition to a state-by-state listing of AFSA retiree members and contact information for local Foreign Service retiree associations, the over 200-page directory contains an information section to answer your questions on Medicare, FEHB, Social Security, TSP, FSPS annuity supplement, beneficiary designations, survivor benefits, former spouse benefits, REA/WAE employment, and other topics. It also lists contact information for State Department offices that serve Foreign Service annuitants from all agencies.
One silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is that employees anywhere in the world can now take advantage of the excellent retirement planning seminars offered by the Foreign Service Institute. At least through March 2021, these courses are being presented entirely online: RV105 (2-day, early and mid-career), RV106 (half-day, annuity/TSP/financial planning) and RV101 (4-day, late career). RV101 has two sub-components that can be taken individually if you do not have time to view the full four days: RV103 (1-day, financial planning/estates) and RV104 (1-day, annuity/TSP/Social Security).
State Department employees register via the FSI Intranet site (unless the training is in conjunction with PCS or Home Leave in which case register via your CDO). Non-DOS employees register via their agency’s HR office which submits a funded SF-182 Request for Training to the FSI Office of the Registrar, fax 703-302-7152. For registration procedures for EFMs, see https://fsitraining.state.gov/Search?q=RV and then click on the course number.
Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB)
If you haven’t yet acted and want to change your Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB), the Office of Personnel Management reports the exact cut-off times as follows:
“The Federal Benefits Open Season ends at 11:59 pm Eastern Time on Monday December 14, 2020 for the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) and the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS). Open Season for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB) ends at 11:59 pm, in the location of your electronic enrollment system, on Monday December 14, 2020.”
You can find instructions and the necessary forms, as mentioned earlier in the newsletter, in the 2021 Foreign Service Annual Annuitant Newsletter. You also have access to a useful AFSA perk, the 2021 Consumers' Checkbook Guide to Federal Health Plans. This member benefit is available here. Simply provide your name and email address to receive access. The Checkbook Guide is generally considered the best tool on the market to compare FEHB plans and rates the over 200 FEHB plans available to Federal employees and retirees.
Finally, you can hear noted expert Paula Jakub, the Chief Executive Officer and Vice President of the American Foreign Service Protective Association (AFSPA), discuss this Open Season and how to coordinate your FEHB plan with Medicare here. Paula’s presentation also includes updates on healthcare delivery systems such as Telehealth, which provides 24/7 virtual access to health care professionals and Telemed, which gives you the ability to visit your own provider virtually and is becoming an accepted mode of treatment.
Upcoming Presentation: Reviewing Your Retirement Plan
AFSA is pleased to present “Reviewing Your Retirement Plan,” our first webinar of 2021 in our Federal Benefits Series, on Wednesday, January 27 at 12 pm. AFSA’s Vice President for Retirees John Naland, a former director of State's Office of Retirement, will walk you through the topics. Whether you have been retired for a few months or many years, it’s worthwhile to assess whether you need make any course corrections in your retirement planning.
Topics include reviewing and updating your annuity records, keeping beneficiary designations updated, what your survivor needs to know, how to best review your Thrift Savings Plan allocations and estate plan, when to launch social security, reemployment rules, and other germane issues.
An announcement with more information and a link to register will be sent out in the New Year. Please note that AFSA records and posts presentations about one week after the event, so if you are unable to participate live, you will have access to the presentation.
The Foreign Service Journal Seeking Notes to the New Administration
The U.S. presidential election is over. It’s time to take a deep breath and prepare for the new administration taking office in January.
The Foreign Service Journal focus for March will be “Notes to the New Administration” on the role of the Foreign Service and how diplomacy and development practitioners can best serve and advance America’s foreign policy interests during the coming months and years.
The FSJ will publish a compilation of your recommendations for the new administration. We invite you to provide your ideas and proposals by submitting a concise response to the following questions:
“How can the new administration reinvigorate U.S. diplomacy through the Foreign Service, and what are your specific recommendations?”
All comments will be attributed. Please provide your name, current position and city of residence or post. Contributions from Foreign Service alumni and family members are welcome. We cannot guarantee all submissions will be featured, but we will print as many as possible. We ask that your comments not exceed 400 words. Submissions will be edited for clarity.
Please send your input by December 22 to email@example.com with the subject line: “Notes to the New Administration.”
Get Involved: Join AFSA’s Outreach Campaign
Since the launch of our outreach campaign "U.S. Foreign Service: The First Line of Defense" in late September, AFSA has been happy to see the enthusiastic response from our members. To date, 40 members have signed up to be campaign messengers.
However, AFSA is ambitious. We want to be able to reach into community colleges and local organizations throughout the country to help us broaden the domestic constituency for the Foreign Service. And for that, we need more of our members to become involved and help us make these connections and share the important role that the Foreign Service plays in our national security.
So, in the spirit of fresh starts and resolutions, in January, AFSA will be issuing a challenge to our retired members to help us reach our goal of connecting with new audiences. The challenge will run until May 7, Foreign Service Day, and will ask members to reach out to local community colleges and organizations and secure at least one speaking engagement. Many of you are already giving presentations in your communities, so why not get recognition for it!
More details on the challenge will follow in January.
In the meanwhile, you can start preparing yourself for the challenge by joining our roster of messengers and by familiarizing yourself with the messaging resources we have developed: https://www.afsa.org/first-line-defense. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up or with any questions about the campaign.
Lastly, in case you missed it, AFSA created a brief video, Bringing Americans Home to illustrate the work of the Foreign Service on the front lines of the new coronavirus pandemic, working around the clock to bring Americans home safely. This is a companion to the campaign's cornerstone video "How Diplomats Protect American Security" If you haven't already, please take a few minutes to watch the videos and share them on social media. We have developed a social media toolkit which has messages and links to the video for reposting.
As always, AFSA stands ready to support members as needed, whether with presentations, additional resources, or virtual platform inquiries. Looking forward to hearing from you!
Support AFSA This December
As you consider your end-of-year charitable donations, please keep AFSA’s Fund for American Diplomacy in mind. The FAD is our 501(c)(3) organization; it allows AFSA to engage in public outreach and education to tell the story of the Foreign Service to our fellow citizens. Through the years, we have reached tens of thousands of Americans through the FAD. Please help us continue this important work by making a tax-deductible donation at www.afsa.org/fad.
The TSP Training Division alerted AFSA to a wide variety of Webinars available to TSP participants. Titles include “TSP to Retirement and Beyond” for employees who are five to 10 years from retirement, “2020: What Has Changed at the TSP?,” and “TSP Investment Funds.” Information on upcoming events and registration can be found at TSP Webinars.