The Foreign Service Journal, September 2018

60 SEPTEMBER 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA NEWS RETIREE VP VOICE | BY JOHN NALAND AFSA NEWS The Trump administra- tion and Republicans in the House of Representa- tives recently re-proposed a series of major cuts to federal retirement benefits that were contained in the president’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request. In addition to various benefits reductions aimed at current employees, some proposals would apply to current retirees: eliminate or reduce cost-of-living adjust- ments (COLA) to federal pensions, reduce the annual yield of the Thrift Savings Plan’s G Fund (U.S. Trea- sury bonds) and eliminate the annuity supplement for retirees under age 62. What are the chances for passage of any of these pro- posals this year? It seems unlikely that Congress will prioritize action on benefits cuts in an election year. Even if the House advances legis- lation, final passage seems unlikely in the Senate, where 60 votes are required to approve most legislation. What are the chances for passage of benefit cuts in the next few years? We will know more after the Nov. 6 elections, which could either boost or reduce the ranks of the congressional support- ers of benefit cuts. In the latter case, significant ben- efit cuts would be unlikely before the 2020 elections. What are the chances for passage in the next 10 years? No one knows the answer to this, but our nation’s large and persistent federal budget deficits will likely keep the pressure on to cut expenditures, includ- ing spending on retirement benefits. Other proposals for benefit cuts—such as reduc- ing the government’s share of federal retiree health care premiums—could be advanced for consideration. What is AFSA doing to protect your earned retire- ment benefits? AFSA is a member of the Federal-Postal Coalition made up of 30 organizations including the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Associa- tion, the Senior Executives Association and the large Civil Service unions. The Federal-Postal Coali- tion represents 2.7 million federal employees and 2.6 million federal retirees. It actively lobbies Congress in opposition to benefits cuts. AFSA participates in its monthly strategy meetings and co-signs coalition let- ters to Congress. What can you do to pro- tect your benefits? Maintain your AFSA membership in retirement—your dues help support the association’s congressional advocacy efforts. Donate to AFSA’s Political Action Committee ( . Monitor major develop- ments, which are reported in AFSA’s emailed Daily Media Digest, digital Retiree Newsletter and this column. Write to your representative and senators urging them to oppose cutting the benefits you earned over a long, chal- lenging career. n Threats to Retirement Benefits Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA Retiree VP. Contact: | (703) 437-7881 Our nation’s large and persistent federal budget deficits will likely keep the pressure on to cut expenditures, including spending on retirement benefits. REA/WAE Coordinator Information: An Update AFSA is pleased to share online the most recent Bureau Coordinator List— updated in late May—for the Re-Employed Annui- tant (REA/WAE) program, which the Human Resources Bureau’s Shared Services Employment Programs Sec- tion kindly provided to AFSA. Secretary Mike Pompeo recently lifted the hiring freeze at State, so now is a good time for retirees to inquire about REA/WAE opportunities. The list is available on our website at in the “Re-Employed Annuitant Program” section. HRSS implemented a new centralized registry of annuitants in 2013, which hiring managers can use as a tool when searching for qualified and experienced employees to fill a tempo- rary need. HRSS nonethe- less underscores that it is critical for annuitants to network directly with bureau coordinators when seeking positions. A wealth of information about the REA/WAE pro- gram, including a fact sheet and a May 2016 article, “Play- ing the REA Game—FS Work in Retirement,” is available at Please direct any questions about the centralized REA/WAE program to HRSEU@state. gov. n