The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2024

44 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL RETIREE VP VOICE | BY JOHN K. NALAND AFSA NEWS Contact: Retiree Resolutions This is my final term as AFSA’s retiree vice president. The AFSA bylaws set a limit of four consecutive terms in any Governing Board position to ensure the inflow of new ideas, outlooks, and energy. But during the year and a half before I go, I want to take full advantage of the subject matter expertise I built up during my tour as the director of the State Department’s Office of Retirement followed by six years coordinating retirement planning seminars at the Foreign Service Institute. Below are five suggestions for getting the new year off to a good start in terms of your federal retirement benefits. Careful readers of my prior columns and AFSA’s bimonthly Retirement Newsletter may notice some repetition, but if you have not yet taken the following actions please consider doing so. Consult Official Guidance Annually. Have you reviewed the “2024 Foreign Service Annual Annuitant Newsletter” published by the Office of Retirement? When I was office director, we mailed printed copies to all retirees. After I left, the department stopped that to save money and trees. Now updated versions are posted each November at https://RNet.state. gov under the “What’s New?” tab. The newsletter contains important updates on retirement benefits and reminders about related procedures and deadlines. It includes the form that most recipients of the FSPS annuity supplement must file in early January. When it comes to federal benefits, what you don’t know can hurt you, so go online to look at the 2024 newsletter if you have not already. Review AFSA’s Benefits Resources. AFSA publishes a great deal of information that covers issues not addressed in official guidance or summarizes the official guidance in plain language. If the 2024 AFSA Directory of Retired Members has landed in your mailbox, please review benefits information in the front section. If you missed my December webinar, “Reviewing Your Retirement Plan,” you can view a video of it at On that same webpage is the one-page document, “Retirement Planning: Checklist for Current Retirees,” that was referenced in the webinar. That webpage includes more than 100 other documents and links related to retirement benefits. Please look through that information if you have not done so in a while. Monitor Your Health Benefits. Medicare-eligible retirees had a lot of options to consider during the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) annual open season that ended in mid-December. If you switched to a Medicare Advantage plan, or if your existing plan enrolled you in Medicare D prescription coverage, check your billing statements after visiting health providers or buying prescriptions. If you see anything unexpected, check your plan’s website to see options for revising your plan. If you did not consider switching plans during the last open season, please investigate your provider options next time in case a better deal is out there. Get Organized. A useful rainy-day activity is to make or update a list of your financial accounts, insurance, and other information that your next-of-kin may some day need to know. Make sure your survivors know where to find your will and other estate planning documents. Make sure they know to contact to initiate survivor benefits. Check your beneficiary designations for life insurance and investments such as the Thrift Savings Plan to make sure that they reflect your current wishes. Maintain Your AFSA Membership. If you currently pay dues annually, please consider paying via annuity deduction. That way your membership cannot accidentally lapse due to a lost or overlooked renewal notice. To do so, email n AFSA Webinar The View from Washington On Oct. 26, 2023, AFSA hosted a webinar for its retired members around the world to learn about AFSA’s current advocacy work on Capitol Hill and with leadership at the various Foreign Service agencies. Almost 200 members registered to hear from AFSA President Tom Yazdgerdi on the status of the international affairs budget and the provisions included in the State Authorization Act, including one intended to protect the Foreign Service annuity for retirees who are later re-employed by the State Department. Yazdgerdi also gave an overview of topics discussed during his Sept. 28 meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the status of nominations and confirmations, and other topics of interest to our retired members. He also shared information on AFSA’s plans for its 2024 centennial and other upcoming programs and events. Listen to the webinar at Washington-webinar-1023. The next “View from Washington” will take place this spring. n