Can you imagine having your HHE delivered to your hotel in WashDC?

FSGB Case No. 2011-037 is about a Foreign Service Officer with 30 years of service, whose last overseas assignment was to a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Iraq.  Approaching retirement in the fall of 2009, grievant left Iraq and returned to Washington.  He leased a temporary residence at the Remington Hotel in Washington D.C.  Grievant retired from the Foreign Service, effective Sunday, February 28, 2010.  He remained in the Washington D.C. area, residing at the Remington Hotel.

On Monday March 1, 2010, grievant received a phone call from HR informing him that he has not updated his OF-126 (Residence and Dependency Report) and his most recent OF-126 in his OPF was dated April 30, 1985. Following completion of that conversation, HR e-mailed a blank form OF-126 to grievant. Grievant filled out the form, placing his current Washington D.C. address in Block 8, and electronically signed and dated the form, March 1, 2010.

In October 2010, while attending the Retirement Job Search Program, grievant contacted the Department’s Transportation Office to arrange to have his HHE sent to his retirement home in Baytown, Texas.  He was told that his retirement address was Washington D.C., so his effects could not be shipped at government expense to Texas.

In short, the FSO could proceed to his retirement home in Texas but his 30 years worth of household effects which may or may not have reached the statutory limit of 8,165 kilograms or 18,000 pounds, net weight was stuck in Washington, D.C.

Bulldozer relocating a house in c. 1920

Image via Wikipedia

According to the record of proceeding, which is publicly available online with the names redacted, the grievant contacted HR and was informed the Assignments Panel directed that a Decision Memorandum be sent to the Director General of the Foreign Service.  On November 1, the HR Executive Office (HR/EX) sent a Decision Memorandum to the Director General recommending against approving grievant’s request to retroactively change his separation address to Baytown, Texas.  Excerpt below from the Decision Memorandum:

Mr. [Grievant] (FE-OC) transferred from Iraq to Washington D.C. in October/November 2009.  Facing age limitation mandatory separation, he submitted his retirement package which included the attached OF-126, dated March 1, 2010.  He requested Washington D.C. as his separation address.  No travel orders were issued because his separation address is within a 50-mile radius from Washington D.C.

Mr. [Grievant]’s retirement was effective February 28, 2010.  He has been working in the Department as a WAE since his retirement and recently contacted his CDO to say that he had made a mistake when he completed the OF-126.  He said the correct separation location should have been Baytown, Texas instead of Washington D.C.  He asked that he be re-paneled and retroactively separated to Baytown.  HR/EX would have to issue a travel authorization if his request is approved.

On November 5, the Director General issued her decision, denying the request.

What a way to say “thank you for your service.”

On January 31, 2012, the Foreign Service Grievance Board held that “The grievant met his burden of showing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that his grievance is meritorious.  The grievance is sustained in part, and the Department is ordered to issue grievant travel orders, and ship his household effects (HHE) to the service separation address listed in the form OF-126 in effect on the date of his retirement on February 28, 2010.” 

Below is the case overview from the FSGB:

The grievant, a Foreign Service Officer who retired from the U.S. Department of State, received a telephone call from his Career Development Officer (CDO) in HR/CDA on the first workday (March 1, 2010) after his retirement, in which the CDO told grievant that his OF-126 form must be updated, as the then-current form in grievant’s file was dated in 1985.  Grievant and his CDO did not discuss the significance of the form, or that its contents, specifically Block 8, would be used as the destination for grievant’s travel and the shipment of his HHE.  Without reading the instructions for the form (which he claims not to have received from his CDO), grievant filled it out, citing his temporary quarters in a Washington, D.C. hotel as his separation address, and emailed it back to his CDO.

Several months later, while attending the Job Search Program, grievant called the Department’s transportation division to arrange for shipment of his HHE to his new home in Baytown, Texas, a Houston suburb.  He was told that he was not authorized any shipment as his separation address, as recorded on the March 1, 2010 OF-126, was Washington D.C.  Grievant then called his CDO and asked to have the address changed back to the Houston area.  This required a decision memo to the Director General (DG), which recommended against authorizing the change grievant requested.  The DG denied the request.

The Board found credible the grievant’s contention that he would not have changed his OF-126 had his CDO not called and told him he must do so.  The Board also gave credence to grievant’s argument that given grievant’s last assignment to a provincial post in Iraq, he may not have received the Department notice explaining the importance of keeping the OF-126 updated; it is possible that he was unaware that the form would be used to authorize the final destination of his HHE.  Finally, the Department’s argument that the grievant could not change his retirement address after his effective date of retirement, when the Department did just that only a few months earlier, fails.

The Department is ordered to authorize travel and shipment of effects to the service separation address in grievant’s file on February 28, 2010, the effective date of his retirement, in Houston, Texas.   It is also ordered to reimburse grievant for the costs of storage of his HHE from January 1, 2011 until shipment to Texas.  Grievant’s request to have shipment authorized to Baytown, Texas is denied.

It might be useful to note that the OF-126 is also the basis when you request for Emergency visitation travel (EVT) from the post of assignment to the United States or to other locations in certain situations of family emergency.  Here is the relevant part: “In the event the seriously ill, injured, or deceased family member or incapacitated parent is located outside the United States, or the remains of an immediate family member who has died abroad are to be accompanied to a place outside the United States, travel costs are “constructed,” i.e., the cost of the travel by the employee or employee’s spouse or domestic partner (as defined in 3 FAM 1610) may not exceed the transportation expenses that would have been incurred for travel between the post and the employee’s service separation residence address.”

I’m glad the FSGB did not like the special way they said thank you over there, too.

Domani Spero

 

 

 

2 responses

  1. When F.S. stands for forehead-slap. Kudos to the Grievance Board, but really, one can’t help but wonder what chain of idiots on the way there did not, a single one of them for over a year, engage skid control upon opening this file. And yet total, uncritical loyalty is demanded. Bah.