The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2016

18 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2016 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL SPEAKING OUT Retiree Access, Step by Step BY MARY E L L EN G I LROY A ccess to various State Depart- ment buildings—Main State (HST), SA-1 (medical and retirement offices) and the National Foreign Affairs Training Center—is an issue of serious concern for retirees. I don’t know how the other foreign affairs agencies acknowledge their retirees; but if they are anything like the State Department, their retir- ees may share some of the concerns I discuss here. The type of ID the State Department issues to those who retire has evolved greatly since the laminated card with printed gold braid edging noting the retiree’s name, date of retirement and years of service issued to my husband when he retired from State in 1986. Today State retirees receive a bronze- colored ID card valid for five years that mimics non-retiree cards, complete with computer chip and magnetic strip on the back, neither of which appear to be activated and therefore do not work. Maybe it’s the thought that counts. So what, precisely, is the thought behind issuing a badge to retirees? In theory, and according to a 2008 Depart- ment Notice, the badge allows the retiree limited access to three floors of HST and to the retirement and medical offices at SA-1. When presented at the VIP Desk Though I chose to treat it as an adventure rather than a frustration, the renewal process points to the inadequacy of State’s policies regarding retiree access. Mary Ellen T. (“MEG”) Gilroy joined the U.S. Information Agency as a Foreign Service officer in 1983 and retired from the State Department in 2009. She served in Haiti (twice), Morocco, Malaysia, Mauritius, Canada, Barbados andWashington, D.C. She is a former retiree representative and vice president on the AFSA Governing Board (2011-2013). in the C Street Lobby, the badge entitles one to a limited-access unescorted visi- tor’s badge, which must remain visible at all times one is in the building. That’s fine—as far as it goes. But, given the restrictions, the fact that it isn’t fully activated and the complicated pro- cedure for renewal, one has to wonder why State can’t do better. My Renewal Adventure Take the renewal procedure, for instance. Last fall, I vowed to renew my soon-to-expire Department of State [Retired] ID badge. After searching the websites of and state. gov, I discovered that the only source of information on the renewal process was! Then, early one afternoon, well before rush hour and equipped with several rolls of quarters for any parking meter I might find, a printout from the AFSA website, my valid Virginia driver’s license and my valid (for another month) badge, I set out for Foggy Bottom. The mission began auspiciously on 22nd Street with an open (and legal) parking spot. I was also wearing a pedometer and looked forward to con- tributing to my daily 10,000 steps during the renewal process. (Multitasking never dies in the Foreign Service.) Knowing that the 21st Street “Jogger’s Entrance” was a few steps from Room B-266 (the badging office), I approached one of the uniformed Diplomatic Secu- rity officers on duty. He welcomed me back most kindly, but had never before seen a retiree ID badge and very politely directed me to the C Street Visitor’s Entrance. At C Street, after being welcomed back again by other, equally polite, DS officers, I went through the standard visitor’s security check before entering the lobby to obtain a limited-access une- scorted visitor’s badge at the VIP desk. (The first time I had returned to HST after retiring, I stood in the general visi- tors queue only to discover after waiting 15 minutes that I was in the wrong line and was redirected to the VIP Desk. I never considered myself a VIP and was quite moved that after almost 27 years of service, State had designated me as such.)