The Foreign Service Journal, June 2022

AFSA NEWS 52 JUNE 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Ongoing Issues at State STATE VP VOICE | BY TOM YAZDGERDI AFSA NEWS Contact: | (202) 647-8160 I am devoting my column this month to a rundown of some key issues that we are work- ing on as of early May. Payroll issues. Thanks to all who took our survey and to the 1,440 Foreign Service employees who opted to join our cohort grievance. Our voices matter. On April 29 Secretary Blinken sent a notice to all employees stating that the department will now pay interest on back pay delayed more than 30 days. That is great news, but there are still issues that to resolve, including a full accounting and correction of leave balances, late TSP payments, interest on late payment of the lump-sum for leave, and expenses dealing with overpayments and credit card and loan debt. Regarding accountability, we understand there is a high-level team at the Charleston payroll center investigating, and we have continued to urge that the findings be made public as soon as possible. D.C. locality pay for FS local hires . AFSA recently briefed Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Brian McKeon and followed that up with a letter detailing why AFSA thinks the depart- ment should start giving D.C. locality pay to local hires now. While encouraged by recent discussions with M and GTM/PC, AFSA stands ready to take further legal action on behalf of affected local hires. The argument that FS orientation is not training simply because no assign- ment has yet been given has never made sense to us. The goal would be to obtain local- ity pay for incoming entry- level employees from the date they are hired, full stop. Anomalous health incidents . We continue to advocate for all employees who have been afflicted with AHIs. At our urging, the department recently agreed to pay transportation and other costs for those who need treatment at Walter Reed or Johns Hopkins medi- cal centers but are stationed domestically outside the national capital area. The department recently sent OMB their proposal for implementing the Havana Act, legislation that provides financial compensation for those with AHIs. AFSA and others will be able to com- ment on this rule in May, when it is published in the Federal Register. We would like to see the act changed to include assur- ances that those suffering debilitating AHI symptoms, but not formally diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, are eligible to receive com- pensation. We also want to ensure that the provision of administrative leave is con- sistently applied for all who suffer fromAHIs. Assignment restrictions. The department was required by the end of March, per the recently passed State Department authorization bill, to implement a provision from that bill which affords employees wishing to chal- lenge assignment restrictions the same rights as employees appealing revocation of their security clearances. AFSA has asked to review State’s proposed imple- menting regulations, which includes a report to Congress on assignment restriction numbers, broken down by employment status, ethnicity, national origin, race, gender and country of restriction. We expect to receive this pack- age by early May. We plan to engage in bargaining with the department concerning the impact and implementation of these proposed regula- tions. In a related matter, AFSA heard from a senior depart- ment official recently that, while a decision on a new assignment restrictions policy is still pending, around 70 percent of current restric- tions had been lifted. DETOs with military spouses . Some members have been denied DETOs (Domestic Employee Tele- working Overseas) status while they are on their military or Department of Defense spouses’ orders and living on or near overseas military bases. The apparent reason is that their location is too distant to come under the chief of mission security umbrella, even though they are living on or near a U.S. military base! AFSA has long advocated for a change to this policy so that State-DoD families can remain together and do meaningful work. We have heard from our GTM col- leagues that the department is about to sign an interim agreement with DoD that will allow this to happen and that this will be completed before the summer transfer season. Presidential Rank Awards. These prestigious awards recognize Senior For- eign Service members who have performed especially meritorious or distinguished service. SFS members eligible for consideration are nominated by their agencies and the Interagency Selection Board and recommended annually by the Secretary of State. The president decides the winners. After a lengthy delay, we’re pleased that President Biden approved Presidential Rank Awards for 53 Foreign Service members. (AFSA was advised that the names were sent to the White House in December 2021.) AFSA signed an agreement with the department requiring it to publish the names of the PRA recipients via ALDAC, unless the president directed that the names not be pub- lished. Please keep your com- ments and queries coming to . n