AFSA Retirement Newsletter - February 2021

In this issue you will find:

  1. Retirement Credit for Prior Service – Early Action Required
  2. Tax Tip for Current Retirees
  3. Remembrances of Secretary of State George P. Shultz
  4. Federal Long Term Care Insurance Webinar on March 2
  5. The View from Washington, a quarterly webinar with the AFSA President, is scheduled for Thursday, March 4
  6. AFSA’s 2021 Directory of Retired Members
  7. AFSA’s One-Stop Retirement Services Shop
  8. Outreach News and Updates – We’ve Been Busy
  9. Save the Date – Virtual Foreign Service Day Programming May 6-7
 

Retirement Credit for Prior Service – Early Action Required

If you worked elsewhere in the federal government prior to joining the Foreign Service, the Service Computation Date (SCD) listed in your records may be wrong for retirement purposes. The SCD that you have seen on your SF-50s over the years (documenting promotions, reassignments, etc.) is for leave purposes only. While employees get leave credit for almost any federal employment, we only get retirement credit for certain employment. Likewise, State Department employees utilizing the Employee Retirement Portal software see a retirement SCD that may be incorrect if they had uncreditable post-1988 part-time service or have not taken steps to buy-back military service or transfer retirement credit for civil service employment.

If your retirement SCD is inaccurate, then when you apply for retirement, the State Department’s Office of Retirement may reply that you are not yet eligible to retire or that your monthly pension payment will be lower than you expected. To avoid such bad news, you should review the State Department cable “Retirement Credit for Prior Service” (posted in the AFSA website’s Retirement Services section) and act if needed to add eligible service to, or remove ineligible service from, your retirement SCD. In some cases, processing by multiple agencies is required, so you should initiate action at least a year before you plan to retire.

 

Tax Tip for Current Retirees

Because a small part of your Foreign Service pension is attributable to the mandatory contributions that you made from after-tax income during your career, that amount is not subject to re-taxation in retirement. If you retired in 2012 or later, your annual 1099-R form lists both the gross amount and the taxable amount of your annuity. Input those numbers into your tax preparation software or give them to your tax preparer so that you do not pay taxes on the non-taxable amount. You continue deducting the annualized amount each tax year until you have deducted the full amount that you contributed to the retirement system.

If you retired before 2012 when the State Department finance office started putting that data on 1099-R forms, then your 1099-R form each year only lists the gross amount. The finance office should have sent you a letter at retirement detailing the total amount that you contributed to the Foreign Service retirement fund. Plug that number into a worksheet in IRS publication 721, “Tax Guide to U.S. Civil Service Retirement Benefits” to calculate the taxable amount of your annuity each year. See the explanation starting on page 5 of that publication which is available at www.irs.gov.

If in past years you inadvertently paid taxes on the non-taxable portion of your annuity, you can avoid doing so in the future by following the instructions in the preceding paragraph. If you need the State Department finance office to tell you the total amount that you contributed to your pension system, email PayHelp@state.gov.

 

Remembrances of Secretary of State George P. Shultz

In honor of George P. Shultz, The Foreign Service Journal invites members who knew and worked with him to send us your remembrances. These vignettes and tributes will be published online on the AFSA website as a living memorial to the former Secretary of State and linked to the Appreciation that will appear in the April FSJ print edition.

Please send your brief essays (up to 500 words) to journal@afsa.org with the subject line: SHULTZ MEMORIAL. You are welcome to include a high-resolution photo (with caption and credit) to accompany your submission. Please include your name, your relationship to the Foreign Service, and your place of residence. Messages will be edited for style and formatting.

 

Federal Long Term Care Insurance Webinar on March 2

AFSA is pleased to announce an informational Webinar about the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) on Tuesday, March 2 from 1:00-2:00 p.m. EST.

During the Webinar, Nathan Sebert, a Senior Account Management in the Education and Outreach department at Long Term Care Partners (which oversees the FLTCIP), will:

  • review FLTCIP benefits, including new features of the FLTCIP 3.0 plan, which offers a premium stabilization feature
  • provide tips on designing your own plan, and review costs
  • cover important information on FLTCIP eligibility and enrollment
  • and discuss the importance of long term care planning

Please click here to register. As always, AFSA will record the event for later viewing if you cannot participate in the webinar.

 

The View from Washington, a quarterly webinar with the AFSA President, is scheduled for Thursday, March 4

On Thursday March 4 at 1:00 pm, AFSA President Ambassador Eric Rubin will host a webinar with retired AFSA members. The webinar, which will be conducted via Zoom, is designed for our retirees to hear directly from Ambassador Rubin on AFSA’s key areas of focus: expanding and reinvigorating the Foreign Service, restoring morale and improving retention, and returning the Foreign Service to the key role it must once again play in America’s national security and foreign policy.

During the webinar, Ambassador Rubin will outline how AFSA is engaging with the transition team and the new leadership at the various FS agencies. He will explain how, through our advocacy work on Capitol Hill, we push these priorities in recognition of the new Administration’s prioritizing of traditional diplomatic engagement. He will also discuss AFSA’s outreach work, upcoming programming, and how AFSA members can get involved. Finally, there will also be an opportunity for questions. Please click here to register for this virtual event.

 

AFSA’s 2021 Directory of Retired Members

Despite USPS delays, all AFSA retiree members should have received their copy of the 2021 Directory of Retired Members. The Directory is not only an invaluable resource for keeping in touch with your friends and colleagues, it also contains a wealth of practical information. Need to change your banking information or secure a “verification of annuity” letter for a mortgage refinance? Refer to the page entitled “Who Does What” to find the contact information for the offices handling these and all other federal retirement benefits issues for the Foreign Service of all Foreign Affairs agencies. Would you like to do a holistic review of your retirement plan? AFSA VP for Retirees John Naland’s checklist will ensure that you are thinking of all of the essential components. Need some schooling on Medicare basics and how to coordinate it with your FEHB coverage? You’ll see an executive summary keyed to the Foreign Service on this topic. The front section includes additional information such as how to get involved in outreach to share the story of the Foreign Service and/or connect with a local FS retiree association.

 

AFSA’s One-Stop Retirement Services Shop

Check out the Retirement Services section of AFSA’s website (www.afsa.org/retirement), which contains the below and much more, all, happily, in one place:

  • Up-to-date guidance from authoritative sources: AFSA has collected the most recent information available from the Department on everything from new REA/WAE bureau coordinators to the universe of recent ALDACs on retirement issues to the most recent retirement transportation and travel briefing from A/LM/OPS/TTM.
  • Something for everyone, active-duty and retired: AFSA considers retirement-related information to be essential not only for retirees, but also for its active-duty members. One constant refrain about retirement is that it takes time and repetition to understand all its elements, and knowledge to make the right financial moves years before the big date. It helps to start this familiarization process early and the first portion of the site, “Getting Ready for Retirement” and the “Financial Management” portions do just that.
  • AFSA’s special programming for retirees: Our Federal Benefits and “Next Stage” Series: You’ll see information and videos from AFSA’s noted Federal Benefits series, advice that is tailored to the unique Foreign Service audience. Offerings include AFSA VP for Retirees John Naland leading you through “Retirement Planning 5 to 10 Years Out” and Federal Benefits expert Ed Zurndorfer discussing what you need to know about the new SECURE and CARES Acts legislation. In addition, there are videos and articles stemming from AFSA’s “Next Stage” initiative, which explores career options post-Foreign Service. One notable example is a video, “Teaching International Affairs and the Art of Diplomacy,” which features a panel of your peers discussing how they parlayed their Foreign Service experience into a teaching position on the tertiary level,
  • Expanded list of resources: Finally, the page includes other websites germane to preparing for and living in retirement.

We hope you’ll take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with this resource. If you need any further information or guidance, don’t hesitate to be in touch with Dolores Brown, AFSA’s Retirement Benefits Counselor, at brown@afsa.org.

 

Outreach News and Updates – We’ve Been Busy

From our outreach challenge to new speaker series and podcast partnerships, we have a lot of updates!

Have you joined our outreach challenge yet? In case you missed it, AFSA issued a New Year outreach challenge to our retired members to connect with community colleges and other local institutions to help us tell the story of the Foreign Service to new audiences.

We challenge you to reach out to at least one local community college and/or community organization and at least one outside of your community (now that the world is virtual) to offer to share your story and the work of the Foreign Service. The champion(s) with highest number of engagements, which means scheduled and/or completed presentations, will be recognized by AFSA and admired by colleagues. The challenge runs through Foreign Service Day, May 7.

If you have already been connecting and speaking at your local organizations, this is a great way to get recognized for it. Please send your updates and activities by May 7 to ruzica@afsa.org.

In March, we will be rolling out two new speaker series – Inside Diplomacy and Diplomats at Work. Inside Diplomacy, hosted by AFSA president Ambassador Rubin, is geared toward a more traditional foreign affairs audience whereas Diplomats at Work is geared towards introducing new audiences to the Foreign Service through storytelling. For our inaugural Inside Diplomacy event, Ambassador Rubin will be discussing the Future of U.S. Global Leadership with USGLC’s Liz Schrayer. We will be sending out more details on registration soon!

As you have likely seen, we have partnered with the American Diplomat Podcast to extend our outreach efforts to introduce new audiences to the Foreign Service. Hosted by Ambassador (ret.) Peter Romero and Laura Bennett, the podcast shares AFSA’s mission of generating public support for the Foreign Service and features personal narratives of American diplomats. The podcast releases new episodes weekly and enjoys a younger audience (25-44) residing in all fifty states and in 156 countries. If you have good stories and would like to be a guest on the podcast, please contact ruzica@afsa.org.

We continue growing our community college and local organizations networks. We have seen an uptick in speaker requests to AFSA as part of our campaign. If you are interested in these speaking opportunities, please do join our messenger roster by emailing speaker@afsa.org. As a reminder, all of our messenger resources, from videos to talking points, can be found at https://www.afsa.org/first-line-defense. It’s a great place to start as you consider any speaking opportunities.

As always, if you have any questions, please contact Strategic Communications and Outreach Manager Nadja Ruzica at ruzica@afsa.org. And don’t forget to follow us on social media (Facebook and Twitter) and share information on latest podcasts and events with your community.

Thanks for all you do to help us share the story and broaden the domestic constituency for the Foreign Service!

 

Save the Date – Virtual Foreign Service Day Programming May 6-7

This year, Foreign Service day will fall on Friday, May 7. Although in preliminary stages, planning is underway for virtual programming. Members interested in receiving information about the activities happening at the State Department for Foreign Service Day 2021 should be sure to email: foreignaffairsday@state.gov.

As in previous years, AFSA will host a full day of programming – this year virtual programming – on the day before, Thursday, May 6. As a part of our commemoration activities, we will also again encourage members to send letters to the editors of their local papers to raise awareness. We will send more information about all of these activities as the date nears.