July 5, 2003 - PCOL Exclusive: A Volunteer's Courage

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A Volunteer's Courage





Just a few months before Sara Evans completed her two years of Peace Corps service, she contracted malaria and rheumatic fever. Then she was assaulted in her village and ended up leaving the Peace Corps and returning to the United States. But her ordeal was only beginning. Read this story written by her mother about one volunteer's courage and her struggle to get proper medical treatment after leaving the Peace Corps.

How common are problems like the one described in this story? We invite RPCVs to leave a message below and tell us if you have tried to get help with medical treatment after your completion of service for an illness or injury that occurred while you were a volunteer. Tell us your own experiences, both good and bad, and what should be done to improve the system.

The Peace Corps and the Returned Volunteer community need to know how frequently problems like this occur. Do improvements need to be made in the way this situation is handled and would these improvements require changes in Peace Corps policy or legislation to implement?

Director Vasquez in his many conversations and speeches before RPCVs has demonstrated that he takes issues involving the Safety and Security of Volunteers very seriously and welcomes hearing from Returned Volunteers. If you have a concern with this issue, then send Director Vasquez an email at GVasquez@Peacecorps.gov and ask him to find out how widespread this problem is and ask him to appoint a commission or working group to study the problem and issue recommendations for solving it. Read the story at:


A Volunteer's Courage*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.



A Volunteer's Courage

Daughter Sara Evans returned home on Sept. 13th, 2002 after serving two years in Africa.

[Note: While "Sara Evans" was willing for her name to appear in this story, PCOL made an editorial decision to use a pseudonym in this story to protect her privacy. All other details in this story have remained unchanged.- Editor]

Daughter had a bout of malaria sometime in the March/April time frame of 2002. She went to the Peace Corps house in the Regional Capital, reported the illness and got pills.

In May, Sara became very ill and was in a lot of pain. She again went to the Peace Corps House and contacted the Peace Corps medical staff. The doctor suspected rheumatic fever and had her come to the capital city immediately. She was tested and it was indeed rheumatic fever. The doctor was considering sending Sara to South Africa to the medical center there just to be on the safe side but she knew we were in route and decided that since Sara was responding well to medication, it would be okay for her to wait for our arrival and travel with us as long as she got lots of rest. The doctor explained that Sara may have to take penicillin for up to five years as a precaution against a reoccurrence. She did not believe there was any heart damage, but another bout could be dangerous. Since she was responding well to medication, rest was the important thing.



Three months later, in August, we received a phone call from Sara that someone had broken into her hut, had got on top of her and held his hand over her mouth. This occurred in the pitch black, middle of the night. Sara bit his hand, proceeded to hit him about the head with a table. In the ensuing fight, Sara was bit in the face. The attacker got away and it was then that she discovered she was missing two of her teeth.

The villagers rallied around her, got her transport to the Peace Corps house where she contacted the medical staff who authorized her immediate transport to the capital city some 550 miles away.

Once in the Capital, Sara was given what was referred to as an HIV cocktail - apparently medicine given to anyone who may have contact with someone with HIV/AIDS. We still do not know if that was the case, and it is a worry to us. We have heard the attacker is in custody and we are pressuring the Embassy to push the local authorities into getting him tested. Anyway, Sara took medicine for one month and it made her very ill. She stayed on in the Capital, doing some office work for her boss. She was sick and not at all happy in the city and made the decision to come home.

The Peace Corps told her that it would take some time to make arrangements to come home. She could go ahead and make her own flight arrangements, pay for her own ticket and they would reimburse her. She called home to get her bank routing number so they could direct deposit the check into her checking account. She charged her airlines ticket to her VISA card and made arrangements to come home. I should tell you also, that she did visit a dentist in country who made her a plate to wear. It was very ill fitting, and caused her pain to wear so she mostly went around without it.

Sara went through her close out briefings, getting information about CorpsCare, etc. I believe that she was not feeling well and somewhat anxious to get home and probably did not digest the information as she should have. No fault there, just stating the facts. The medical staff gave her three authorization forms - one for a routine dental checkup, two to her family physician to check the treatment for rheumatic fever and to be tested for HIV at 3, 6 and 12 month intervals. (carbon copy forms, pink and yellow)



So Sara came home on Sept. 13. I immediately made an appointment for her to see the family dentist. He was a little appalled at the plate she had made in country and because he is such a caring dentist, told Sara he could and would make her a better one, which he did. I am grateful because it doesn't do a lot for one's self esteem to walk around with missing teeth.

The dentist referred us to another dentist who specializes in implants. We made an appointment to see him also. Both dentists worked together to come up with a treatment plan for implants and some bone graft. Unfortunately, the implant doctor's office mailed their estimates to the Peace Corps office in Indianapolis. I explained that they needed to wait until I got a claim number from the Department of Labor before submitting the estimates. The office tried calling Indianapolis to get the estimate returned and of course nobody there knows anything at all about it. So now both dentists are waiting for me to supply them with a U.S. Department of Labor claim number for injury before submitting the estimates together in a package for approval.

It took me over a month and repeated phone calls to the Peace Corps to obtain form CA-1 ----I'm hoping that's the correct one. It says it can take up to 10 weeks to process and I'm not happy about that. I was really upset when looking at my copy to discover the date of injury was left blank in error. I have no idea who to call about that or will I have to wait weeks to correct that mistake!!

Both dentists are ready to begin what we understand to be a procedure that could take up to one year. Sara did have a routine checkup, teeth cleaning and a filling. The dentist office had an authorization form for that work and I believe they submitted that for payment.



Next problem came about a week after Sara got home. She got very sick, chills, headache and fever. She thought she had malaria again. I called the family physician and got a run around because Sara hadn't been in for over two years so they no longer had her files in the office. The doctor was too busy to see her and didn't treat people with suspected malaria. The nurse told me to call Public Heath. I did and after many phone calls and lots of frustration, found a clinic with a doctor's assistant who treated people who did a lot of traveling and was familiar with some of the more exotic diseases.

He saw Sara, suspected malaria and sent her to the lab for tests and gave her two prescriptions, one for pain and one for malaria. We had no authorization form as we had no way to expect this illness. I am not sure where the billing stands on this visit. We gave them the Peace Corps phone number but with no authorization form I'm not sure.

Sara has made several calls to the medical office and has not got through to request the authorization form.

I purchased the prescriptions with my money and am hoping to be reimbursed but I'm not sure I have followed the correct procedure. The doctor called us later in the week to say that malaria did not show up on the slides, but he is still convinced that is what she had. He also said she was very anemic and needed an iron supplement. That may be why she was so tired. I guess taking a lot of medication can sometimes take the iron out of the blood and that would make sense as she was taking the medicine to prevent HIV. I bought the iron supplements and have no problem with covering that.

So the next step was finding a new family physician, which we did. Sara took her two authorization forms with her. The doctor was not comfortable with giving advice, immediately recommended she see an infectious disease doctor about the rheumatic fever and HIV. She looked at the bite mark on Sara's face and referred her to a dermatologist. I have made repeated calls to the Peace Corps to try and find out if we need authorization forms (PC-127C) to see the doctors we've been referred to. I am confused here about who pays as the HIV and bite mark were from an injury, the rheumatic fever was from sickness during her service dates. I think that let's CorpsCare out, but I'm just not clear on all this.

Sara decided she had enough of doctors. She went back east to visit her brother. Just before she left, she was coming down with a cold and I went into a panic. Told her she must start taking penicillin right away because I didn't want her getting another rheumatic fever attack. So we stopped to get her prescription filled (written out by the family physician). The pharmacist asked for her medical card - I told him I thought I would have to pay for it and get reimbursed. He said he didn't mind trying to find out whether or not she was covered. After several phone calls, he came back and said CorpsCare had no record of Sara Evans. So today I sent out e-mail asking for status. She remembers signing up for a year of medical coverage, and billing it to her VISA. I am currently checking the status of that.

So after all this, what are we looking for? We understand that Sara's travel reimbursement check was sent to the Peace Corps Office in her Host Country in error and that someone from the CDC is bringing it back to the states and will put it in the mail. I don't understand why a check was ever cut and why or how it ever got sent there. Major screw up there - poor business practice to us. Don't know if you are concerned about it or not, but we feel better just bringing it to your attention.



Sara suffered a very traumatic attack as a Peace Corps volunteer. We understand the whole red tape, paperwork thing but really expected some help in getting her treatment started immediately. Okay, its not life threatening, but is still a rather nasty injury. Rheumatic fever and exposure to HIV is not something to be taken lightly either, and here we find ourselves in a quandary as to how to get in to see doctors when we really aren't quite sure how they are going to be paid.

Yes, its our daughter and we can take her in and pay and worry about reimbursement later, but then the paperwork gets even more confusing. She is also trying to be independent and does not want us to pay for anything that she feels isn't absolutely essential.

I'm just feeling very frustrated. When I call the medical office, I get different answers and end up telling my story over and over again. It doesn't help that I work full time and end up making my calls from my work phone. The time difference doesn't help. Anyway, thanks for listening. If you have any suggestions, any comments and how this whole thing can be made smoother, I'm sure interested in hearing.

More ----- finally got a check in the mail. Sent to our address but with the name Kimberly Deni on it. Couldn't believe it. Called the Peace Corps Director's office and got his assistant. She advised me to tear the check up. I said no, that didn't sound right to me - was once again frustrated as she really only handled the appointments for the Director and didn't get involved in this type of thing. So I ended up talking to Allan Gall (sp?) in the General Counsel's office. Not really his department either but he did listen to all my whining. Connected me to Shari Fischer in Finance who told me to send the check to her attention. She assured me she would give this her personal attention. So guess what? About two weeks later we got another check in the mail for Kimberly Deni. I called Mr. Gall back again. He was really nice again, wanted me to call Miss Fischer again. I told him I had done that once, why would I do it again? Got the story about how unfortunately I was dealing with a government agency and I know how that is? Why is that always the standard answer? Talked to Shari Fischer again who apologized, etc. etc. Still have no idea what is going on. There is a reimbursement check and a close of service check floating around. One got routed back to Africa is coming back to the U.S. by way of a CDC employee. The travel reimbursement was to be deposited in Sara's checking account ---- what is going on?



Latest Update: No HIV test as of yet. I think every other Peace Corps volunteer had a test before leaving Africa. Can't say as I blame Sara for not wanting to go to the doctor. I mean we still don't know if we have authorization to see an infectious disease doctor or not?? Wonder if the Embassy ever had her attacker tested. They were to let us know.

The first two oral surgery procedures have been completed. The Bone graft is complete - Dr. Quinn did the surgery. Then in a second procedure, Dr. Quinn put in the titanium posts. A Catscan needed to be done so they don't hit any nerves. Who will pay for that? In six months the two teeth will be put on the posts. The total cost of the procedures will be about $10,000. The surgery has been authorized but so far the dentist has received nothing. We're just lucky that the dentist was willing to do the work and wait for his reimbursement.

New plate made - Dr. McKenzie did that. (Dr. McKenzie is family dentist for over 20 years.) I'm so embarrassed that he hasn't been paid. Dr. McKenzie will make the actual teeth to fit over the posts.

I have submitted $80 of prescriptions to be reimbursed. Drugs before surgery. No one has a record of that.

Wonder where that paperwork is? They sent it all back to me for a pharmacy number. I added it and sent it back. They probably put the wrong return address on the envelope just to confuse me.

Also, finally did receive the check for the plane ticket home.

...to be continued.

We invite RPCVs to leave a message below and tell us if you have tried to get help with medical treatment after your completion of service for an illness or injury that occurred while you were a volunteer. Tell us your own experiences, both good and bad, and what should be done to improve the system. In your message, be sure and include when your illness or injury occurred, how soon was your treatment completed to your satisfaction, and what was the final outcome?




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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Safety and Security of Volunteers

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By Victor Vuyas on Monday, July 07, 2003 - 10:20 pm: Edit Post

This didn't have to do with me, but it happened to the volunteer posted closest to me. He was leaving because of "mental problems", read "melt down." In any event, he was hurting, really needed help-- therapy, if nothing else. Peace Corps interviewed him in Washington, then sent him home. Finish. He was abandoned. This was in 1969. One would have hoped things had improved. But it's like the man said, it's a government agency. And there's your answer. It is gov't, the same government that treats its Vets like poor relations. Should Peace Corps expect better?

By Anonymous on Monday, July 07, 2003 - 11:21 pm: Edit Post

I did not have such serious injuries as "Sara Evans", nor did I require as many procedures or doctors upon my return; nevertheless, I did find that the workers compensation paperwork was extremely confusing, I had to make several phone calls about where to fax things and to whom they should be addressed. The Medical Office in Washington was patient and helpful, but in the end I ended up paying for my (affordable) visit myself because it was easier than following all the red tape. If the visit and medication that I needed had been more traumatic; I would have been very, very frustrated with the added stress of filing with worker's compensation and CorpsCare. (On a side note, the CorpsCare rates went up 30% in March 2003.)

By NStevenson on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 12:22 am: Edit Post

I could not believe the story that I just read, it is so similar to my own. My healthcare in-country and on MedEvac was mismanaged and I felt that PC washed it's hands of me as soon as they decided that I was to be medically separated. I had many pieces of paperwork put under my nose to be signed while I was extremely sick, exhausted, scared and feeling very alone and confused about what I was doing and how things would workout. I was told by my Case Nurse that my medical conditions related to my PC service would be entirely covered/reimbursed. This could not have been further from the truth.

Once MedSep'ed I received no help from PC and was told to deal with the DOL's Workmens' Compensation. My case has been lost and I had to rebuild it myself not once, but twice. I have had calls go unreturned, letters requesting information and help gone unanswered, case workers suddenly changed, been yelled at and hung up on. I've been told a countless number of times that "this is what sometimes happens with a government agency" and "I don't know why, this is just how it is." My reimbursements have been inconsistent, if they have been paid at all. I have been home for just over two years and have accumulated unreimbursed bills that number in the thousands. The amount of wasted money, time and added stress that this situation adds to an RPCV's life is incredible and needs to be stopped. I refuse to give up and continue to write letters, make phone calls and resubmit bills over and over again. My Senator was of some help but once again my case has reached a stalemate.

I will never regret my decision to volunteer with PC, I had a bad bout of bad luck. But the fact that this "bad luck" continues years later both saddens me and causes me much anger. I could spout on forever about my experience once I became sick but this is not necessarly the forum for that.

"Sara Evans" know that you are not alone, if I could I would reach out and give you a hug. My best wishes to you on your recovery and dealing with the entire situation. Keep a good record of EVERYTHING and don't give up.

Best wishes to you and your family and all of the other RPCVs experiencing similar difficulties.

By Patty C on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 12:24 am: Edit Post

I too had a medical issue when leaving my post in 1989. After a bout with malaria, for which I was treated in country, I COS'd experiencing severe anxiety disorder (also treated with meds. in country). When I arrived home I was still recovering from the malaria and was taking medication for the anxiety. After a visit to the Peace Corps medical office in D.C. (at my own expense), I was given forms (worker's comp., I think) to submit for reimbursement for therapy only. I had to pay out of pocket for an additional medical exam by my home physician, and for an additional prescription for the anxiety meds. All in all, I think Peace Corps did the absolute minimum for me once I was back home, with a moderate amount of run around. My biggest concern is for the volunteers serving now, in an increasingly unstable world. I remain unimpressed with the care volunteers receive in country, especially mental health care. Volunteers deserve a dedicated, full time, year round professional on staff to help them deal with the many issues that will come up over their course of service. I remember my period of service in a positive light, on the whole, though there were many challenges along the way. When I was mugged on an early spring morning walking from a bus station, the only help I got was a warm hug from a fellow volunteer (not an inconsiderable gift). There was no one on staff to help me talk through the experience - even for one day. I cannot believe that it is too expensive. Imagine the money it could save down the road in claims. I am not down on Peace Corps, mind you. I just think that an organization that attracts such smart, sensitive, hardworking people as the PC does needs to treat them all much better.

By RPCV 99-01 on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 12:41 am: Edit Post

My heart goes out to 'Sara Evans'. I had issues with the Dept. of Labor and Workers Comp., but nothing compares to her story.

I came back from my country with severe allergy problems that led to a nasal infection. I had to get a catscan, and I had to get hundreds of dollars worth of drugs. The D.O.L. and Worker's Compensation people were absolutely worthless. Doctor's still hadn't been paid months later, I was fortunate that they were willing to wait and work with me. Some of the drugs I had to buy...I just ate the cost. It reached a point where it was costing so much in terms of time, faxes, forms, mail, waiting, more forms, more faxes, etc. that I just said it was better to be out a couple of hundred than deal with this mess.

The Peace Crops needs to have a office that deals with D.O.L. and Worker's Comp. It felt like I was merely turned over to the D.O.L. and Peace Corps washed their hands of me. Furthermore, the D.O.L. and Worker's Comp need to understand that the medical claims of RPCVs are much different than typical claims.

By gcovello on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 2:29 am: Edit Post

This story breaks my heart and it is something I warn prospective volunteers about: That there is a serious health risk when considering service. You may be very far from care and be confronted with a life-threatening illness - and then the care may not be at the same level we are used to in the United States.

What happened to me was: I stayed in country about two weeks after my close of service. A national wanted to come home with me and it was taking a while for her to get a proper travel visa.

During that time, I fell very ill. Yes, I had bought the insurance they recommend after service, but then the red tape begins. I went to a Costa Rican hospital because the American hospital was too far and I was too ill. The treatment I received was scary indeed (but that is not really Peace Corps' fault).

I never really received a proper diagnosis. I was given antibiotics and it seemed to relieve my infection. But without a proper diagnosis, nobody could rule whether my illness was work- related or not, so neither Peace Corps nor the insurance company wanted to accept responsibility. After going around and around regarding whether the illness was work related or not, Peace Corps gave authorization to have a battery of tests done in the U.S. to determine the cause of the illness.

I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome which is stress-related. So I had to write out a narrative stating my case and proving that a stress-related illness was definitely work-related. If I am not mistaken, I also had to sign something stating that I would not claim anything in the future as a result of this illness.

So I was sick for about 6 months and had to be careful about what I ate and drank.

Now, about 10 years later, I had a VERY thorough exam with Kaiser and it was discovered that one of my kidneys doesn't work. I am convinced that what happened to me was some form of kidney failure and had it been properly diagnosed, perhaps it could have been saved.

I do not believe the misdiagnosis was Peace Corps' fault. I credit Kaiser with finding this out and properly treating me for it. I do think that the nightmare that ensues if you fall ill very close to the end of service is TOO much for a sick, financially poor, culture-shocked returned volunteer to deal with.

My suggestion would be that Peace Corps volunteers be covered for a time period after close of service. Perhaps, 30 days?

Have any

By Tom Webb on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 4:57 am: Edit Post

The consistency of the RPCVs' experiences is amazing. I, too, had all of the problems that the other volunteers referred to, in regards to the Peace Corps administration. My heart goes out to Sara. I was a fisheries volunteer in Zaire/Congo in 1977-1978. Ancient history now. While in country, I developed some neurological problems on my right side, that led to a loss of power in my right hand,leg, etc. This made it very difficult to write, and to do my job as a PCV. I was eventually brought home, and given a whole battery of tests. Nothing definite was ever decided, though theories were put forth that I had had an allergic reaction to Aralen, the malarial drug, or possibly to some unknown toxic chemicals- with some resultant nerve damage.
I don't beef about that, as we all know that in-country service can be hazardous. But when I came home, I had all sorts of problems with the D.C. office. The same things the other volunteers mentioned. People losing my case file, not returning phone calls, having trouble remembering who I was, etc. I always had a hard time getting Peace Corps to pay my medical bills. My area Congressman helped a good deal, but even he was frustrated. After 3 or 4 years of this, I threw in the towel, and decided to make the best of it. This was 20 years ago. In retrospect, I probably should have sued Peace Corps, but I thought at the time that that wouldn't go anywhere.
I have been able to live a fairly normal life, but still suffer from those same medical problems. I can truthfully say that I have been extremely disillusioned with Peace Corps over the years. Lots of promises up front; very little, and very insincere, follow-ups. Most of us former volunteers are way too polite about this. Peace Corps dumps former volunteers, and washes its hands of any responsibility. I had a great in-country experience, but I don't think I would recommend Peace Corps to someone just starting out. The health risks, and resultant grief, are perhaps too great. As one of the other writers said, perhaps this can be blamed on PC being a government agency. But that is really a cop out for Peace Corps- it's no excuse. If the powers-that-be were really interested, they would make sure that all RPCVs are taken care of. I see little evidence of that.
It's unfortunate that Peace Corps treats its volunteers this way, as most volunteers are sincere, and would do anything asked of them. It's sad that Sara has to go through the same things some of us went through years ago. Peace Corps asks former volunteers to contribute their comments, but is this sincere? As in actually having an effect? It's easy to ask us to write something, and everyone will say how terrible it is, etc., but will this really change anything? I wouldn't hold my breath. It would be nice if it did make a difference. Then Peace Corps would really live up to its own ideals.

By Aviva on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 7:19 am: Edit Post

I don't have a horror story. I came home at the end of my service with some skin problems which were treatead at a health clinic in Rochester NY. I did not have any trouble getting the appropriate people to pay for it. That was in 1997.

By Anonymous on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 7:52 am: Edit Post

Why do war veterans recieve such great medical care and RPCV's are left in the dust? I had no sever medical problems, however I have friends who did. PC has given them the run around. Confusing forms and buracracy, on top of being seriously ill. Most RPCV's are young people right out of college (although there is an inceasing amount of more seasoned volunteers) who may have never dealt with a large governemnt agency. I currently work for one and understand the insane paperwork. However I can see how the average RPCV would not. Really PC - get it together.

By jharkins on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 8:00 am: Edit Post

Fortunately, I did not have any major medical issues during my PC days. However, upon COS I needed a simple test for intestinal parasites (most volunteers know what I mean). I had all the required paperwork prior to the test and submitted them per regulation and never saw a dime. I returned to work in my PC country, so could not keep fighting for the money and finally just gave up and paid out of pocket. My story is completely minor compared to others I have heard but it does support a trend. The medical office was also notorious for making mistakes with pre-service medical evaluations.

By Howard Ellegant (ellegant) on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 9:36 am: Edit Post

I am furious after reading Sara's story and comments by other returned volunteers.

I thought Peace Corps was about helping underdeveloped nations come into the developed world. God help them if Peace Corps administration is an example of what the developed world is about.

Being a government agency is no excuse and no reason for administrative foul ups. Peace Corps should be an example of caring support and efficiency to help PCVs and RPCVs with problems like Sara's.

Considering the young age and inexperience of volunteers when they enter service it is a disservice by Peace Corps to not have efficient user friendly mechanisms in place to assist in cases like Sara's.

I would have hoped for better and am extremely sorry to hear how Peace Corps handled Sara's and others' cases.

Time for a Congressional investigation?

Howard Ellegant (Colombia '64-'66)

By Rycho on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 10:51 am: Edit Post

I don't have any issues as major as some of the other complaints on this message board, but I am tired of trying to go through Corps Care (the RPCV "medical insurance", if you can call it that) to get anything. I've been to the doctor a couple times- the first time was supposed to be paid for by the Peace Corps with vouchers they disperse upon COS(not Corps Care, but actually, Peace Corps- paid), but they never paid for that, so to avoid a bill nearly a year old now, I paid it. After those vouchers, Corps Care kicked in and it's paid for absolutely nothing. I guess I thought that medical insurance would be a good idea, but it hasn't paid for one thing, despite what the plan says it will and won't pay for. I don't know why I signed up for Peace Corps health insurance- I guess the thought of a volunteer organization such as the Peace Corps having anything less than helpful when it comes to readjustment issues didn't seem possible... not so. It seems like an RPCV might receive some thanks in small ways from the US government, but instead, with programs such as Corps Care, all the Peace Corps is doing is ripping us off (ok- to be fair, it's actually IMG that Corps Care is under, but regardless, the Peace Corps is still having us covered by them). The administration of the Peace Corps needs to be completely overhauled, as evidenced by the story, "A volunteers courage", above, by my experiences (bills never paid, getting passed around in circles while on the phone even to the main D.C. office, getting no answers from anyone, never getting the correct forms, or being told 10 different answers by 10 different people), and I'm sure by yours, as well. An organization like the U.S. Peace Corps has a sorry excuse for any internal workings/administration; things need to change, and benefits to RPCVs need to be upgraded... and if not, then the Peace Corps needs to warn us that when we're set to return to the U.S. upon COS and are looking to good, cheap medical coverage, we shouldn't enroll in Corps Care, because it's just a way for us to blow a large part of our return allowances.

By pcv Kenya on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 11:17 am: Edit Post

Corps Care is worthless-- I had it for 6 months following COS and I regret it-- total waste of money. I do have several illnesses covered by FECA, though. They're inept, too. My file was lost, then reappeared in Florida. PC/Washington did try to track it down and swore it was in Philadelphia. $@*$!!! Make copies of everything, keep a record of when you sent things and who you spoke to when and what time-- keep up with them. You ARE entitled to full coverage but you have to be persistent.

By Nicola A. P. Cullen on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 11:28 am: Edit Post

I am so very sorry to hear Saraís story. I hope Sara that you are recovering and feeling better. Also, you are very lucky to have a parents who can help and support you. My family has been great and I consider myself very lucky.

I too have a Peace Corps/DOL horror story. The Reader's Digest version...I was in a car accident while a volunteer (Ghana 92-94) and when I got home, I had to have surgery for an injury sustained in the accident. Now seven, yes seven, years later I am still dealing with an open wound as a result of the third surgery. It is healing, but very slowly.

Ok, here is my advice, for what it is worthÖ

1. Write to your Congressional Representative RIGHT NOW! The only time I got the DOL to sit up and listen was after I wrote to my representative. I got an almost immediate response telling me exactly what I had to do to get reimbursed.

2. Send only COPIES of original receipts. Time and time again, the DOL loses stuff and you need to send the information two or three times.

3. Save EVERY piece of correspondence certified and return receipt.

4. Go to this URL and read everything you can get your hands on Returned volunteers qualify as Federal Employees
http://www.dol.gov/esa/regs/compliance/owcp/fecacont.htm

5. Get a copy of your Peace Crops Medical file, if you don't have one already. Make sure all of the injuries you sustained are in that file. Everything!

6. Call the DOL again and again. Make sure you get both a first and a last name. The general information number is 1-866-999-3322--8 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. There is a number for more specific inquiries and it is 646-264-3000 that one is only opened until 3pm.

7. Keep every little thing having to do with the injuries. You may be eligible for a permanent full or partial disability as a result of injuries and you need all that evidence for the disability hearing.

8. Use the right formsóI learned that one the hard way. For any reimbursement you need the following informationÖ
EIN Numberóthe is the pharmacyís tax i.d. number
Pharmacy Name & Address
Claimant's Name, Address, & OWCP Claim Number
Name of Physician
NDC Numberóthis is the national drug code for the prescription, if it isnít on the bottle of meds just as your pharmacist for it.
Date Filled
Name & Strength of Drug
Quantity
Rx Number
Amount Paid by Claimant
For non-prescription stuff you need all of the above except the NDC number and such, but you do need to include a description of the item. Use form CA-915. You can even get an electronic version of this form go to: http://www.dol.gov/esa/regs/compliance/owcp/forms.htm

9. Did you know that the DOL will pay you missed wages if you have to go to the doctor? Also, the DOL will pay for your transportation to the doctor. There is a form for that too.

That is all I can think of at the moment. Sara, if you or your Mom want to contact me, feel free. My email address is napcullen@yahoo.com

I hope you feel better and that this gets fixed. There is nothing worse than being sick and getting dicked around. Good luck.

By Scott Goldsmith on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 8:28 pm: Edit Post

My experience with a Peace Corps related medical problem, although ancient history, demonstates that there was a time when volunteers were well cared for.

I spent about 6 months traveling after termination before arriving home in the spring of 1970. In the fall of that year during my first week in graduate school, I came down with a case of malaria that put me in the hospital for several days. I had taken my Chloroquine religiously both while in country and while traveling home through other malaria infested areas. Between my arrival back home and my starting graduate school I had stayed put in the midwest. Although the delay between the time I left country and became ill was unusually long, it was pretty clear that I must have contracted the disease while serving as a volunteer.

I had no health insurance at the time. I wrote a letter to Peace Corps, explaining my situation. It was a long time ago and I don't remember the exact course of events, but I do know that I never paid the medical bill. Peace Corps came through for me.

By bankass.com on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 11:51 pm: Edit Post

ahhhh yeaaah! Is anybody home at Peace Corps? Medical Services is a joke and the Peace Corps coordination with that office is an arcane system.

Mrs. Evans, I am sorry. I hope everything works for you and Sara. Mrs. Evans, some solid advise is to deal directly with the DOL instead of Peace Corps. Call Ed Duncan at 202-693-0040. He will be able to send you the CA-2 form which you will need soon and by the time Peace Corps gets around to it, it will be three months later. This will get the ball rolling.

Mrs. Evans, I personally have had a fourteen year struggle with Peace Corps. Currently, I will not contact the Agency. The last couple of times I called, I was told that Steve Weinberg, the lawyer and Doctor told a subordinate not to handle my case period. Perhaps the trouble and "round about the maypole routine could be the start of your bureaucratic nightmare". My suggestion to go directly to the DOL. It is bureaucratic too, but not as bad as Peace Corps.

I know many people believe Peace Corps has such a good reputation as a great volunteer organization (I do too), but their career and management systems in dealing with Return Volunteers, Separated Peace Corps Veterans, Safety issues, attrition rates and most of all infamous Medical Services has not really changed in thirty years.

My personal experience goes like this: 14 years since I served. Never an apology. I feel I had my civil rights violated the day I was separated. I have filed in court a few times, Federal Court, I have filed with the IG which was a waste of time and called for reconsideration everytime the Director changes.

Recently, a Federal judge has indicated I was wrongfully denied FECA. I will not comment any further, but I can tell you with every fiber of my body. I will try to reform Peace Corps in these areas. My family and I have gone through a nightmare and economic depression no one should go through.

I am now improving. I am improving because I don't contact Peace Corps, Congress or spend money on a web site for safety, security, attrition rate problems and medical issues at Peace Corps.

I have taken down my web site Bankass.com. On that web site, I sited 20 plus volunteers who died, were killed or are considered missing since 1996. I called Peace Corps and major Senators during the times of these unfortunate circumtances and registered my concerns. I went broke doing it. There is an office of Safety and deaths of volunteers have decreased since 2001, but two volunteers has not been implanted even during these times and a GAO Report requested by Congressman Marty Meehan has been done on the safety and security of volunteers. You should contact his office by the way. You should also read that document, the GAO Report on Safety and Security.

Also, if you want to effect change. Contact Chris Shay's office 202-225-3121 and ask for Tom Costa on the democratic side call David Rapollo with Henry Waxman. Both are on the government reform committee. Separated Peace Corps Veterans call for hearing in this committee. Instead, Chris Shays had Vasquez to his office for a meeting, but hearings were turned down. However, they warned the Director to improve safety and security issues. I guess they are still having issues. At least give them one call.


Sick, the Peace Corps Medical Services is sick.

Volunteers are the remedy. Keep speaking out. Mrs. Evans, if you write to me personally I will send my phone number to you so we can speak. Many former volunteers have called and written about their issues with the agency.

Daniel Pailes

By bankass.com on Wednesday, July 09, 2003 - 12:01 am: Edit Post

Howard,

YES IT IS TIME FOR A CONGRESSIONAL HEARING.

Thanks

Daniel

I will contact Marty Meehan soon. Call Senator Kerry's office. He is running for President. How will Peace Corps change if he is the nominee? Howard Dean is for reform.

By concerned on Wednesday, July 09, 2003 - 1:06 pm: Edit Post

As I read this story I cried. It is so sad - to not only have to go through this ordeal while serving abroad but than to have to do battle at home with the very organization you served is appalling. My heart goes out to the entire Evans family.

I am a recently returned volunteer who was assaulted at gunpoint in my village not too long ago. I underwent therapy in the host country, however, I had a nervous breakdown a few weeks later and went to DC. The "nurses" there are a joke no less - uncaring and even rude at times. That is another issue. I was there for a month undergoing intense therapy with the hopes of returning to finish my service but I did not. After my time was up in DC I chose NOT to continue therapy at home because I did not want to deal with the hassle of all of the paperwork. This was a mistake on my end because psychologically the wounds still have not healed. But there are too many stories like the Evans'that I already knew of and I did not have the energy to fight this battle at this point in my life. Nor did I have the funds to pay out of pocket for doctors' bills.

A year later after I had been home I received a letter from the DOL saying my case was approved. A year later - I was in therapy everyday for a month and twice a week after that while in DC. I could have never afforded to continue that after PC abandoned me.

Safety is so important to PC, however in the country I served, not enough was done as far as finding safe and adequate sites and housing for volunteers. It was very difficult for my sitemate and I to find housing in our village and we had to live with a woman who beat her two children for 2 months. We moved into another home and that was robbed. We moved again and I was assaulted a month later. I don't know - I just felt PC let me down.

When people ask me about my service I tell them it was the best and worst time of my life. It's just so unfortunate that RPCVs are left to the waste side without any regard. The entire organization needs to be restructed. I am willing and able to do my part to ensure what happened to me doesn't happen to anyone again.

By Latrice Montgomery on Wednesday, July 09, 2003 - 2:34 pm: Edit Post

I was stationed in one of the former Soviet Republics and left after two months instead of two years. I won’t even get into reasons why I did not relate well with my group. I would recommend a stronger recruitment of minorities. I was unhappy in the beginning and later became sick, but I could not identify the specific problem until I was home and completed a colon screening ($1,000.00) in addition to having an upper GI tube ($3,000.00) place down my throat.

Given that I chose to leave on my own (during training), instead of leaving because of a medical condition, I am not even considered a RPCV. I found out I had Irritable Bowel and Acid Reflux with a “touch” of anxiety. I purchased the Corps Care, but as you know, it took the DOL 6 months to receive my claim and another 6 months to approve my condition. Thank God I was able to go back to school to complete my seven remaining grad courses and obtain financial aid. Otherwise, I would not have been able to afford the Corps Care. I got a check for $349.00 six months after my return to the states. Technically, Corps Care should get reimbursed for all my medical fees, but I am not going back to review all my records so that the DOL can spend another year trying to reimbursed Corps Care. These internal issues within the DOL could have been the results of 9/11 and the Anthrax mail problems.

I don't know, but as far as my prescriptions were concerned. It took over a year and a half to get my money back and I had to fax/mail my claim form another five to seven times. The mail was simply never received or tossed. My DOL rep. does not and still to this day to return phone calls. Don’t even bother leaving a message on their customer service line, they will not call you back. I have even got denied for lab work requested by my specialty physician because the DOL determined that the tests were not related to my condition. What are we supposed to do if we are given an approval letter stating no prior authorizations are needed for the approved medical conditions. The balances are considered a bad debt and I’m waiting for them to hit my credit report.

I was also approved for an anxiety condition and I see both a psychiatrist and LCSW. I'm waiting to receive a letter stating I'm limited to a specific number of visits. In addition to my medical conditions, it took me over two years since my return to obtain a job to be able to purchase group insurance, but I guess I can relate this to 9/11. But, am I regretful for joining the Peace Corps, maybe so, but I am glad I made the effort for the little time spent. Never will I do it again!

By anonymous on Wednesday, July 09, 2003 - 2:58 pm: Edit Post

I served 63-65. I was treated for a medical condition at the direction of the PC doctor. The coordination between the host country and DC was confusing and ineffective. After I completed my tour of service, but before I officially left the Peace Corps, the host country medical director sent me to Wash DC for evaluation and final diagnosis. I received neither. The experience was a nightmare.
Twenty five years later, when I had cancer, I suffered incapaciting "flashbacks." The diagnosis was Post Tramatic Stress Syndrome related to the medical treatment I had received as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
It is outrageous that Volunteers are still being denied adequate medical treatment and support. I appreciate "Sara Evans'" wish to be independent and be able to access medical care appropriately and confidentially. As a mother, now, I understand "Mrs. Evans" fight to secure good care for her daughter. I salute them both and wish them well.

By bankass.com on Thursday, July 10, 2003 - 12:10 am: Edit Post

To Concerned,

You are not alone. I went through a very similar experience that you describe. You are right about the nurses. Instead of care, they turned on my character.

I wish you the best. I know it is hard for you to keep reliving this experience. You should be proud of yourself for even serving in Peace Corps. Things will change in the coming years at Peace Corps one way or another. There are too many of us with these issues.

Howard said it best. A Congressional Investigation needs to take place and take the abuse out of the Peace Corp's hands and back in the people who serve them and developing countries.

Again, thank you Mrs. Evans and Concerned and the others for sharing your experiences. It is vital so that the system is changed.

Daniel

By Catalin Kaser on Thursday, July 10, 2003 - 3:26 pm: Edit Post

My husband and I served in Eritrea '97-'98 and Solomon Islands '98-'00. I came down with malaria in October 2000, after returning to the US. We were still travelling and happened to be visiting a friend in Seattle when I began feeling ill. The university medical center did not find malaria, but sent me home with promises of tests for rocky mtn spotted fever, west nile, & other possibilities.

We decided to fly down to California where we could stay with my in-laws in Sonoma County. My fevers were getting higher and closer together and I was miserable, so I went to Santa Rosa Hospital. There, they tested me for a bunch of other things and did eventually find malaria. I couldn't help thinking that it would have been better to get malaria in a malarial country where people have a lot of experience reading malaria blood slides and also know that you have to get the blood sample while the fever is up.

As bad as having malaria was (and the medicine isn't fun either), dealing with getting all those services paid for has been a nightmare of anxiety and paperwork. The first hospital visit was actually taken care of relatively painlessly by Peace Corps. The second visit--where they actually figured out what I had--was supposed to be covered by Dept. of Labor.

My claim was accepted as a worker's comp claim, but getting them to pay for the hospital, the doctors, and the medicine was really tough. At one point, one of the doctors had me referred to a credit collection agency, which terrified me, but I managed to get them to back off. I was calling and writing to various people constantly for a year, and intermittently for another year. In fact, I only just got it all cleared up last month (June 2003!--32 months later!) when a billing person at the hospital finally wrote off the remaining $1000 on the bill.

Part of the problem was the lack of clarity of who should cover what: I had CorpsCare coverage too, and had given that to both hospitals when they asked for proof of medical coverage, but I think it was all really the responsibility of Peace Corps and DoL. There were no clear communications between the different agencies either.

Another part of the problem was the hospital industry--three different doctors, one of whom I'd never seen, were sending me bills. This was my first experience in a hospital and I was shocked at unnecessary tests being requested AFTER the diagnosis was already made, simply because one doctor hadn't communicated with another doctor. So the cost was higher than it should have been, and I had 3 doctors' offices plus the hospital to deal with.

The biggest part of the problem was the D.O.L. All I can say is that they suck big time! Not returning calls, being snotty and unhelpful on the phone, transferring my file between different offices, not including any phone number or email contact info on their correspondance. Last, but not least, they don't pay what things cost--I ended up paying for a good portion of my malaria drugs, and the hospital and doctors had to write off part of their charges.

An interesting contrast has been my husband's experience. He also came down with malaria, in November 2000, after we had moved to Ithaca, NY. He had a blood slide read at a local lab, got prescriptions from our doctor, and spent no time in a hospital. His claim was accepted by DoL and processes quickly. Again, they didn't pay for very much of the drugs, but his whole interaction with them was over within six months, I think.

As for those Peace Corps vouchers for state-side check-ups, etc.--we found that dentists and doctors kind of looked askance at them, but did generally take them, and were eventually paid, but not without hassle. At least a couple of providers asked us to talk to Peace Corps to see what was going on with their payment.

Overall, from getting medical clearance before getting into Peace Corps, to dealing with post-service medical issues, this was the hardest and most distressing part of my Peace Corps service (and both my stints ended with program closures and evacuations due to political situations--so they weren't stress-free stints of service). A focus on their state-side administration of medical issues would be great!

On a positive note, we had several great PCMOs overseas, in whose care we felt great confidence.

By Greg Groth on Thursday, July 10, 2003 - 4:42 pm: Edit Post

I came home from then-Zaire in time for Thanksgiving, 1981 and was in the hospital in New York the day after Christmas with hepatitis. I had been given the option by the medical office in Kinshasa of not taking my last gammaglobulin shot, since I was going straight home... Hospitalized for two weeks, confined to home for a couple more, and while I got the treatment that I needed, the reimbursement was slow in coming, to the point where I had doctors and the hospital chasing me for payment.

By bankass.com on Friday, July 11, 2003 - 9:28 pm: Edit Post

To Catlin Kaser,

I agree totally with your assessment that coordination between Peace Corps and the Department of Labor needs to take place.

To admin, Hugo Pickens other people dealing with these issues relating to health,safety,attrition rates, separation issues and post service issues, employment development issues related to service.

I have thought alot about these issues since Sara Evan's mother wrote this article. It gets me upset that I have not done enough to change things. That's how I felt when Walter Poirier went missing. Like I had not done enough or convinced enough Congress people to change Peace Corps broke systems in these areas.

Please, alot of you are very smart and have the ability to effect change. Please help in any capacity you feel is helpful.

Documents written on these issues are the following:1. GAO Report 1990's Improvements to Health Care Delivery Systems at Peace Corps 2. GAO Report done on FECA Benefits are either in this report or the GAO Report was done on its own. 3. There is a particial GAO Report Written during the 1970's requested by John Conyers which is still relevant today nearly thirty years later because Peace Corps has not changed. This a GAO Report on early terminations. 4. Finally the 60 plus Page GAO Report on Safety Issues at Peace Corps during the 1990's and 2001 this was requested by Congresspersons Cynthia Mckinney and Martin Meehan.

The message says to Contact Vasquez directly. It has been a waste of my time in asking for changes with the admin. They don't listen. Over the years and with 20 plus volunteers killed, died and missing since 1996 and they still won't place two volunteers together coupled with the fact they have sent 4,000 more volunteers into service that are allocated to go to Islamic countries. How many issues, comp claims, deaths, incidents before the arrogance stops throughout the agency? Also, he won't resolve my issues with my separation. Why should he help you or help the greater good of Peace Corps? He won't. He just wants to get to the bank to cash our check written to him.

We Separated Peaece Corps Veterans have written it many times.

1. We need a lawyer who works for us (the Volunteers who make up the Agency) that is right us, who served. Why do we need a lawyer? Peace Corps has five or six working for them. The FECA laws are complicated and separation issues are complicated.

2. FECA Office at Peace Corps: We need an office within Peace Corps that coordinates with Peace Corps and the DOL who is indenpendent of Peace Corps or if that can't happen, employees who have been volunteers who have gone through these issues personally, someone who is empathtic to our concerns. Someone who really ansewers the phone, is courteous, and gets our paper work done in one to three days. The employees who have worked there for a career, most have not even have served in the Peace Corps. Also, they should not have the right file complaints whimisically that have been "made up" so they can use the Patriot act against the volunteer post service. Period. That is unprofessional and cheap. Medical services is concerned because of the amount of medical malpratice that has already occured in that office. That is why they are nervous of change.

A. In relation to FECA: How many claims have been registered with the DOL related to Peace Corps service?

B. Why hasn't the GAO or a Congressional Hearing been done on an intergrated basis on separation, attrition rates, health care and safety and who this effects the program?

C. How many volunteers are possibly eligible for Peace Corps and don't apply for one reason or another?

1. Has a poll ever been done by the government to see how each volunteer is performing the third goal and how they could improve it?

2. Mark Gearan talked alot about it, but he did nothing about it. He did not even serve in Peace Corps. He should be on the Board at NPCA.

D. Liaison and Conflict management office: If Congress allocates funds for these provisions why can't the funds that are not spent go toward a better office at Peace Corps related to labor, health and separation issues. For instance, a conflict management office made up of former volunteers, Separated Peace Corps Veterans and the admin to go through each volunteer's file to work on these issues in an equitable fashion. If we can work on Peace abroad we can work it out between each other. This will help in resolving cases, streamlining government systems, save money, help the reputation of Peace Corps, assist in averting Peace Corps employees or former volunteers from damaging the career's of others through borderline slanderous comments and opinions. Even post Peace Corps. The state Dept and AID lose alot of good folks from the type of destructive types of opinions. Also, it will help in the third goal of Peace Corps, to signigantly bring your experiences home to the American people.

E. Also, if percentage of volunteers aren't using the program. Why shouldn't we as Separated Peace Corps Veterans get funded directly to do our own health care, employment development, crisis corps and counseling related to safety. If Peace Corps and the DOL can't do it. Then why can't we, so we can serve the third goal, not get discriminated by other volunteers and employees of the agency we served.

F. Why is it that the volunteers who served the two years without incident, so apt to be critical. Is it out of ignorance?

G. Why is it that the volunteers who are dealing with these issues are sometimes the closest to peace issues when they served but are treated as damaged. Rape, Violence, Terrorism, Slander, Discrimination come from poverty issues whether in the mind or learned because of their circumstances. Aren't these the issues we went to confront? But who are we confronting now? 1.Gaddi Vasquez, did not serve.
2.RPCVs who served without incident.
3.Employees of Peace Corps who work against a volunteers best interest.
5. Congressperson's who served and did not have our issues, therefore everything is fine.

Let us serve, serve after service with Pride.

Daniel Pailes, Mali 1988-89
978-462-3868

I want to be honsest with you all. I don't think any of the above will be implemented. Why Because the head of Foreign Relations Committee is Chris Dodd. Everything is just hunky dory to him. Also, unless Chris Shays really says what he means it, about the Director needing to improve safety issues, which I can't take away from him in the past couple of years, but how is he dealing with us who come home and have these issues. I hope him and his responsible wife, both RPCV's themselves do the right thing challenge the status quo and change. Have Hearings or change the whole safety, health and separation issues with a conflict management office to strealine cases. Its too important not to do anything.

By Karen M Krueger on Monday, July 14, 2003 - 12:31 pm: Edit Post

Well, I have been in the Peace Corps two times - 64-66 and 89-91; and I am on the Safety and Security Advocacy Committee and reside in Florida. I know that the former Head of the Advocacy Committe has now gone to USAID and the job is being worked prn or as needed. I guess it did get a little hot this time.

I personally think it is repugnant that a Humanitarian Organization (if we not them can call it that) allow this kind of service to be the norm for 30 years. Of course, they (the Administrators in Washington DC) are doing it to illustrate to the Third World and the UN that PCV's are a pampered lot and need to be kicked around now. Now, not only is this repugnant,but disgusting to boot.

I think that unless the Peace Corps can get a handle on it own abuse in its own Agency, it will always continue to do the kind of job that is now being done in the Third World.

Obviously, it is hard times for the Peace Corps; just look at the UN and how they are getting kicked around too. Not that this is any kind of excuse for what has happened to Sara and all of us other good RPCV's who only wanted to do a good job for the Third World.

I personally think some kind of group action needs to be taken to see if anything can be done this time.

So, Sara, maybe sometime in the rest of your life, you might consider being a PCV again and don't go alone to a country that has a poor Security Record.

All the Best,
Karen M. Krueger, RPCV Malaysia: Sarawak and Jamaica:52

By annonRPCV on Monday, July 14, 2003 - 4:27 pm: Edit Post

I too read Sara's story and related to her experience dealing with PC medical. I just finished 2+ years of a very unusual service, I began in a "stan" that was evacuated at my 8 month point of service after Sept. 11th, 2001, and then I re-inlisted in another PC program in Latin America, and then managed to return to my orignial post when it re-opened in April 2002, to finish up the last year of my original service. Those of you who have dealt with PC headquarters can only imagine the amount of red tape all of that required. I was very lucky not to have any serious medical problems. Still, I nearly did not get the opportunity to reinlist in a new PC country after evacuation because of a minor medical issue that was directly related to my first Peace Corps Service.

Navigating PC red tape after evacuation was pretty much a full time job. I did, obviously, find a way to take advantage of what I knew my rights to be, and I did get to reinstate as a volunteer AND later return to my original post, although I did end up out $500 or so in medical bills that got lost in the system, and finally became not worth the trouble of the constant brick walls and runaround from headquarters...

What worked for me was finding the names of people in the medical office of PC Headquarters who would actually help me. They weren't necessarily the "right" people designated for whatever particular point in the whole process, but they were people on the inside, who knew the system and helped me understand in clear terms what I needed to do and how to do it. I got the names by asking around, my placement officer told me who to contact, my former PCMO, etc. Get names from anyone who may know who in the DC medical office really cares about peace corps and truly wants to help volunteers and RPCV's get their due. If you just call and talk to whoever picks up the phone, nine times out of ten they will be completely unhelpful. I have learned through these crazy last 2 years that there ARE people, many people, actually, at headquarters who are dedicated and want to help us out, we just have to find them.

Hope that helps, good luck to everyone-

By Rich Bailey on Friday, July 18, 2003 - 9:50 am: Edit Post

Even though there are many horror stories about the Peace Corps and these types of situations, there are some with a good ending.

While a PCV in Fiji 91-93, I was severly injured in a fall on a mountain in New Zealand. After three weeks in a hospital in NZ, and six months of physical therapy in the States, I was able to get back on my feet. As far as I remember, I and my family did not have any problems with all the paperwork and red tape in that time. This message isn't to negate the problems of others but just to show that it isn't all bad. It is easy for only the horror stories to come out and color the overall discussion.

Rich Bailey
Fiji 91-93
Kazakhstan 97-99

By Phillip on Saturday, July 19, 2003 - 7:50 am: Edit Post

I certainly don't want to be dismissive of all that has been said. I have worked for the government and, sometimes, the problems are so horrifying as to almost be funny (if it weren't for the fact that they are serious problems).

Regardless, I'm sure that some folks out there have had POSITIVE experiences with the PC and Corps Care. Yes?

I'm in the process of becoming a volunteer. It is this type of discussion that could easily change my mind. As a mid-career professional, I just don't need the hassle.

SO SOMEONE...SAY SOMETHING GOOD TO BALANCE THE BAD.

By Bankass.com on Saturday, July 19, 2003 - 3:55 pm: Edit Post

Phillip the experience is awesome with the people you serve. The problem begins when you start speak with the administration in your country and in Washington. Generally, most volunteers will tell you it is better to have little contact with them. They blame you for the problems you are placed in generally. So if you want to join jump in, stay quiet and get placed with another volunteer. Then don't come to the capital city too often. Good Luck

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) on Sunday, July 20, 2003 - 10:16 am: Edit Post

To Phillip:
The stories here are very real. Serving PCVs have difficulities because of their dependency status-intensified by the 24/7, overseas, cross cultural environment in which they work. It is the same kind of dependency, I believe, that one sees with people who have been adjudicated; incarcerated, or are otherwise totally dependent on the government. You would be well advised to take a copy of the current Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook to a lawyer and discuss with him/her just what you might expect. As a "mid-level professional" you probably have the financial resources to set up legal support, stateside, if you should need it overseas. But, if you are only going to join on the assumption that "things will go well" and you "don't need the hassle"; then, DON'T GO. The very last place to look for a hassle free environment is the United States Peace Corps!
To Daniel (bankass.com)
You win. We do need Congressional hearings on the safety and security of serving PCVs. I will write my congressional delegation and include your list of lost Volunteers. Thank you.
Joanne Marie Roll Colombia 63-65

By bankass.com on Monday, July 21, 2003 - 11:29 pm: Edit Post

Joanne,

Thank you. I am still doubtful there will be hearings. But, it can't hurt and I think it will improve the program.

I don't really mean to be so harsh, but they need to listen, both Peace Corps and Congress. Thanks again for always writing in and giving your opinions.

The recent events have made me active again and I have called who ever I feel will help. I am finding help in places I have not before, like powerful Senators like Kennedy and Leahy. Chuck Haggle has been listening too. I hope Senator Lugar will listen too. I have to deliver my fish tommorow and be up early so I will see you later. Daniel

By htide on Tuesday, July 22, 2003 - 1:18 am: Edit Post

Ok I think people here need a wake up call. I do not deny that injustices have occurred and there are inept med units and workers at the dol and Peace Corps and to those people who have truly undergone serious medical issues and felt unassisted by Peace Corps I am sorry. Please pay no attention to what I am about to say.

But come on people this isnít the reality of all Peace Corps medical care. Letís be honest here. I would assume a large percentage of peace corps volunteers serving in the last ten years (I CANT SPEAK FURTHER BACK CAUSE I KNOW THERE HAVE BEEN MANY CHANGES) with advancement in drugs who have come down with malaria were most likely not taking their malaria proxalysis or not taking it regulary. Every person I served with in Benin who came down with malaria was not taking their meds. To those people you should be thanking your lucky stars feca covers you. Think of feca as workers comp. In the real workforce if you do something on the job that is careless and unrelated to your job, YOU DO NOT GET COMPENSATION.

We are know the bureaucracy of Peace Corps also includes the massive information on feca and corps care and how to file. I am sure this girl was stressed, but how many other volunteers were stressed including myself and managed to fill out the paperwork correctly. I saw so many volunteers risk their life so carelessly by riding their bike at night or not wearing their moto helmet, and yet peace corps is unbiased in who it cares for. If you get hurt you get help and you donít pay and I donít know of any other workers comp dose that.

To all the future volunteers, here is the lowdown, if your seriously sick or depressed or whatever go to the med unit, take you malaria proxalysis, boil your water, and do what peace corps tells you to do for your region, finish the complete malaria proxalysis when you go home and when you finish or if you leave read the paper work and pay attention to the peace corps video about feca and corps care and most likely you NOT going to have to deal with most of this anyway. And for corps care, you dont have to use it. Itís free for the first month but after that you can pay about 90$ a month plus you must pay for the first 250$(deductible) in cost and then they will pay 90-100% of you cost depending on where you go. I kept it the entire time. However, It may not be for everyone. If you get a job you wonít need it, but it is nice to have if you donít or if you are going back to school. If you take care of yourself and read carefully and keep track of illness most likely youíre going be fine. I was probably more sick then anyone in my PSL and I have no complaints about my medical care.

And frankly some of these posts like bankass I find to be whining and lack of self responsibility. To think you served and should know what it means to not have opportunity and freedom and yet you cant move on. Instead of using all the resources we have here in the US to argue something so long ago why donít you use them to move on. Stop blaming the flaws of your life on peace corps and accept the choices you made and move on. Come on, sometimes life isnít fair .

Its not that there are not flaws, but I find all these negative experiences to not be the norm and I think future volunteers need to know that.

And again to anyone who has TRULY had difficulties with Peace Corps I am really am sorry. All my medical stuff went smoothly and I donít want to be discrediting you, but I think there is an overstatement of the negative that is not actually representative of the entire peace corps body and I donít want new volunteers to be scared that it is commonplace.

Bon Courage
htide

By Tom Webb on Tuesday, July 22, 2003 - 6:16 am: Edit Post

In response to Htide's message, I have to say that I find it kind of offensive. Just because former volunteers air their greivances about their problems with Peace Corps, doesn't mean they're "whining." Many if not most of the respondents above say that they had a great time in Peace Corps, but feel let down by their treatment when they got sick. That's how I feel. I had a great volunteer experience, but also had all of these problems. It's true that volunteers voluntary accept many risks when joining Peace Corps, but this doesn't mean that they shouldn't have good treatment upon their return. The government should stand by its volunteers.
Htide says people should "move on." That is true up to a point, but there are people who are stuck with debilitating health problems, and this makes it difficult to "move on." I would bet that most RPCVs are doing their best, but you can't just brush off peoples' problems. The bottom line is that Peace Corps has let a lot of people down, and if they did their part, it would be much easier for people to "move on." I suggest that Htide take other people's feelings into consideration a little bit more. There is no way you can justify any organization not taking care of its own. Tom Webb

By htide on Tuesday, July 22, 2003 - 10:30 am: Edit Post

Tom,

I am sorry I maybe should have been clearer but in terms of the whining and the move on I was referring DIRECTLY to bankass. He stated,Ē I feel I had my civil rights violated the day I was separatedĒ I took this to be admin separated and frankly that is an entire different can of worms. I find much of what bankass has said to be way over the top and I find it hard to believe especially with such vague details. And comments like "Sick, the Peace Corps Medical Services is sick", and "The problem begins when you start speak with the administration in your country and in Washington. Generally, most volunteers will tell you it is better to have little contact with them. They blame you for the problems you are placed in generally. So if you want to join jump in, stay quiet and get placed with another volunteer. Then don't come to the capital city too often." are not true for everyone and he is implying to future volunteers they are. I have issues with that and thatís why I got all worked up in the first place. I could be wrong but I am suspect of it.


I said I am truly sorry people with legitimate issues with medical unit and respect their ability to work through it. You are right in that they have a right to air their grievances and a right to expect care from peace corps. I am just making the point on this certain individual that I have issues with what he said.

Iím sorry if you took my comments personally, but I wasnít directing them at you or anyone else for that matter besides the one I stated. I should have been clearer.

Bon courage
htide

Ps I also said my experiences with peace corps are more recent. I finished in 2001. I canít really comment on the care 20 years ago.

By bankass.com on Tuesday, July 22, 2003 - 11:26 pm: Edit Post

I don't have to justify anything to another volunteer who has not walked in my shoes. My separation was a "medically bogus separation". "Move on from what?" Injustice. I hope you will be a help in our progress to reform of Peace Corps health, safety and attrition rate issues at Peace Corps. Or don't you want us heard.

I still feel the less contact you have with the medical staff the better, through self care. This is hindsight to my experience. Medical services at Peace are sick in my opinion. See 1991 GAO Report on Management of the Health care system of Peace Corps. Also, see the above story of Sara Evans and the thousands of others who have not been served correctly. I am glad to hear you had good health care in your service. I also know that Peace Corps health is extra-ordinary health care. But, these services have got to be held accountable too for their many fo-pa's, to make the program stronger and help the volunteers with medical issues which they obtained during service.

I will not spell out the details of my medical separation. If you received the health care I received, I am sure you would have strong opinions about your own care as you do for my comments. I will not be quiet about the struggle I have had with the Peace Corps, civil rights violations Peace Corps used to separate me, nor will I be quiet when volunteer safety is in jeopardy. No!

I will not waver in these beliefs until Peace Corps medical services and safety standards for volunteers are fundamentally changed by the Peace Corps and its culture.

I know my comments don't reflect all volunteers. Whoever this is, my experiences as a volunteer were good too, expect for the last couple days of service and with Peace Corps medical services and then back in Washington.

Also, I am implying that medical care and the FECA program at Peace Corps are suspect and many are asleep at the wheel. Mrs. Evans has experienced it first hand. I can tell, to say the least, they have not helped me at all. And furthermore on safety: Why isn't their a full time search being conducted by private investigators on the where abouts of Walter Poirier? I think alot of people want to know. In my opinion, there has not been enough done in terms of dollars allocated for the search so that people can come to some closure. Peace Corps could easily go to the Congress for its authorization. He is the only volunteer ever from what I know, still considered missing. The head of Peace Corps should put a full time private investigator on his case for a full year. That is in my opinion.

You may not agree with me. I can appreciate that. But, we who have been hindered by the health care program must and should speak out and try to create solutions to the problems.

When administrators, former volunteers and members of Congress put us down for speaking out we know change is coming and we can appreciate that too.

Thanks, Daniel

By Judith Lesner on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 11:02 pm: Edit Post

I served in the Philippines from '63-66 and think the care we got was excellent except for seeing a horrible military OB/GYN at Clark Air Force Base. I had 2 impacted wisdom teeth extracted, intestinal parasites (numerous times), gynocological issues, and athlete's foot that landed me in the hospital. A friend has his appendix taken out. PC med staff seemed concerned and caring. One PCV developed breast cancer and PC doctor flew home with her. After I left Philippines and was travelling developed a huge infection on my hand and was unable to bend finger. Went into PC ofc in Thailand to ask for name of MD to use. PC doctor treated finger and sent me on my way, dispite fact I was no longer a Volunteer. Guess things have changed.

By Christian Harris on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 7:50 am: Edit Post

My problem with Peace Corps (Kenya 99-01)came just before I was to COS. I had gone mountain climbing a month before I was due to COS and came down with a very nasty and persistent cough. As I have asthma, this was of great concern to me. I had problems breathing and my physical activity was greatly reduced. After seeing the Medical Service several times they brushed me off. As far as they were concerned, I was soon to be out of their hands.

The most they ever did for me was to hand me a form to turn in the states (the nightmarish form required for FECA). After several weeks back in the states (with the same persistent cough) I managed to see a Doctor at long last. It turned out to be Bronchitis. The cough eventually went away soon after the Doctor visit, which saved me a bureaucratic nightmare of having to get approval for the medication. My cough returned a month or so after and became a persistent part of my life for the next year and a half. The doctors believed I developed a Bronchial Asthma, which is a more advanced form of the Asthma I had (exercise induced) because it was left untreated.

I will say that Peace Corps was a great experience, but the Administration was full of the most useless individuals I have come across.

By Jennifer Cochran on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 8:14 am: Edit Post

I always felt very well taken care of while in country (Armenia 96-98) and the Peace Corps sent me back to Washington for excellent dental work when I broke two teeth in a bicycle accident halfway through my service. When talking with a Peace Corps nurse in Washington I was left with the understanding that an further treatment I might need for the teeth would be covered by worker's compensation. Several years later the bonding on one tooth began to break down and my dentist repaired it with a crown. I paid out of pocket, planning to get reimbursed by Peace Corps/DOL. I submitted all the proper forms which were sent back several times asking for additional information. I made many phone calls to Peace Corps and DOL-where it was practically impossible to connect to a human being who could answer any questions-and eventually the automated voice system told me that my claim had been approved. After another few rounds of forms in the mail I felt I had invested more time and effort than the money (around $1,500) was worth and gave up.

By Love Peace Corps on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 9:00 am: Edit Post

Let me begin by saying that I empathize with the problems people have been having with medical reimbursement. I've had my share of difficulties in that arena and they are similar to the experiences had by others. I definitely think it's time for the Office of Medical Services to provide better liaison support for former volunteers with service related medical issues.

To Phillip who's interested in being a volunteer, I suggest you read Living Poor by Moritz Thomsen and So You Want to Join the Peace Corps by Dillon Banerjee. Thomsen served in the 60s but his experience still seems contemporary. Peace Corps is not without risk or challenges and is not for everyone. There's also a lot of other Peace Corps literature out there - much of it available at your local library. Educate yourself before you apply.

I also agree with the THide that bankass (Daniel Pailes) needs to move on. I've visited his website, seen his postings and believe he probably could use further treatment. I served in Asia and South America, was evacuated from Africa and was a staff member in the former Soviet Union. I've had positive and negative experiences with medical care but the vast majority of medical staff have been incredible supportive. I also agree that finding a helpful person, even if it's not her job, can be key to getting things done. This isn't true just for Peace Corps but for any organization.

Peace Corps could use some improvement, for sure, and the some of the experiences we've had with medical care are unacceptable. But it's still the best and toughest job I've ever had. I hope my kids grow up to be Peace Corps volunteers.

By kenn miller on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 10:05 am: Edit Post

I am a Return Peace Corps Volunteer who was medically seperated with only 3 months left of my service. I had a bike accident which caused my brain to swell and I was unable to function as I did before my accident. My accident was 7 months ago, and ever since I have been medically seperated I along with my Doctor are STILL waiting for medical treatment. I received one check for compensation and I am still waiting for either treatment authorization and financial assistence.

I received more medical attention the two weeks I was in my host country than the 7 months since I Have been home.

Kenn MIller

By Andrew Jenkins on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 10:07 am: Edit Post

Let's face it, the Peace Corps is like any large entity, whether it is corporate (I have worked in a few) or governmental, inefficient and slow to correct its inefficiencies. Overall, my volunteer experience was life changing and generally went well when I was not dealing with Peace Corps bureaucracy. I do feel that the Peace Corps, like any large Corporation, should be there to support and help its volunteers (employees) be more effective, but ultimately it all falls on the shoulders of the volunteer. In general, the same goes for medical care. I feel my medical care in country was sufficient. Following my service, I used Corps Care. We had many medical procedures that were necessary in treating our daughter whom we adopted while in service. I thought that financially, Corps Care although helpful was not sufficiently supportive for just returned volunteers trying to get their feet back on the ground. Considering the amount of attention healthcare is receiving in Congress, I would think that citizens, who are moving their country towards better international relations more effectively than any other organization, should be better supported when they reenter the U.S.

For all those considering the Peace Corps, if you are a young or old, adventure-minded, independent, entrepreneur, it is the toughest job you will ever love. If you enter your service with an open-minded, adventurous attitude, you will leave with a changed heart and new perspective on life.

Andrew Jenkins
RPCV (Romania, 1998 - 2000)

By RPCV Ukraine on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 10:49 am: Edit Post

As an RPCV, I have heard several such experiences. In addition, I too had a very negative experience dealing with a medical issue that arose shortly before completing my third year as a volunteer. At that time, after conferring with the medical officer, the decision was made to wait until I got back to the states to get treated rather than incur extra expense (how naive I was) to Peace Corps. I spent over 16 hours (logged) on the phone, mostly to Indianapolis. Each time I called, it was as if I was calling for the first time. My letters and faxes were continually being "lost". At some point I insisted on speaking with a manager. Ultimately, I was refused reimbursement (I did have an authorization from the medical officer in country). After more calls and a letter, that decision was reversed. I am passionate about and believe in Peace Corps, but the post service medical situation is in dire need of change. These kinds of issues are damaging to the agency and its recruitment efforts.

By RPCV Ukraine on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 10:49 am: Edit Post

As an RPCV, I have heard several such experiences. In addition, I too had a very negative experience dealing with a medical issue that arose shortly before completing my third year as a volunteer. At that time, after conferring with the medical officer, the decision was made to wait until I got back to the states to get treated rather than incur extra expense (how naive I was) to Peace Corps. I spent over 16 hours (logged) on the phone, mostly to Indianapolis. Each time I called, it was as if I was calling for the first time. My letters and faxes were continually being "lost". At some point I insisted on speaking with a manager. Ultimately, I was refused reimbursement (I did have an authorization from the medical officer in country). After more calls and a letter, that decision was reversed. I am passionate about and believe in Peace Corps, but the post service medical situation is in dire need of change. These kinds of issues are damaging to the agency and its recruitment efforts.

By Mackie Joseph Venet Blanton, Ph.D. (mblanton) on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 10:53 am: Edit Post

What I find extremely interesting about these personal narratives is that many of the writers here, perhaps unconsciously, protect their former host country by not identifying it, because, obviously, they know that the local geographical origin of a problem is not the issue. This speaks well of them, and of their love for service in the world. This also suggests that we need to remedy their concerns within our PC offices at home and abroad by devising greater accountability regarding catastrophic experiences; otherwise, how can we as a nation ever hope to be at home in the world?

Mackie J.V. Blanton,
RPCV/Tunisia 1964-1966

By 97-99 PCV on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 11:12 am: Edit Post

I've been an RPCV for 4 years now. The HCN doctor working with the Peace Corps office in my host country was absolutely amazing the best doctor I have ever had in any country, the American PCMOs weren't always the best. I also had difficulties with red tape when I returned spending massive amounts of time on the phone, at the copy center, mailing and faxing. My US doctor said there would be no problem accepting Corps Care, several months later I received a series of bills, because it turns out they didn't, I also paid and was reimbursed for some bills related to my Peace Corps experience, which took many many months, but in the last month I received a bill for $300 from a doctor I hadn't seen in over three years they had never received payment from FECA. They forgave the bill though. The whole medical thing is a complicated process, extrememly frustrating and even negligent in their care of their past employees, but I wouldn't trade my experiences (well most of them anyway) as a volunteer for anything.

By L-pence on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 12:16 pm: Edit Post

We had a PCV "medi-vacted" due to an EXTREME mental breakdown during training. Because there was no PC medical officer on island at the time, I and another newly arrived volunteer were asked to "keep him company" while arrangements were made to have him return to DC. Yes, it was stressful for us as two new volunteers to witness and be responsible for someone in the midst of an acute psychotic state, but what saddened me most is that he received no follow-up treatment after being sent home from DC. I loved almost every minute of my service, but I have to agree that the medical services are very lacking. I DO think PC has a responsiblity to make sure their volunteers are taken care of, especially since things develop during service due to difficult living circumstances.

By L-pence on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 12:16 pm: Edit Post

We had a PCV "medi-vacted" due to an EXTREME mental breakdown during training. Because there was no PC medical officer on island at the time, I and another newly arrived volunteer were asked to "keep him company" while arrangements were made to have him return to DC. Yes, it was stressful for us as two new volunteers to witness and be responsible for someone in the midst of an acute psychotic state, but what saddened me most is that he received no follow-up treatment after being sent home from DC. I loved almost every minute of my service, but I have to agree that the medical services are very lacking. I DO think PC has a responsiblity to make sure their volunteers are taken care of, especially since things develop during service due to difficult living circumstances.

By Janet Sandoval on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 3:23 pm: Edit Post

Sara, I am praying for your recovery and know that there are a lot of people on your side...

I served 77-80 in Morocco and while riding in the back seat of a taxi was rear ended by a semi-truck. The whole back end of the taxi was demolished and I was thrown into the front seat.

When I called the peace corps office to tell them what happened, they told me they weren't responsible because I was on leave. -- That was a little detail that would have been good to know before hand... (I was on my way to the Casablanca airport to visit my parents stateside).

I have had serious back problems ever since. (Initial chronic pain and then several years later could barely walk for about a year - periodic no feeling in one of my legs - unable to sit or walk normally - etc. )

When I finished service, Peace Corps paid for one visit to a doctor to check out my back but since nothing was bent or broken, that was the end of it.

I also left service with giardia, roundworms and pinworms as well as an abdominal infection. Took lots of medications for that but after prolonged treatment, the medication didn't get rid of it and it was such a hassel dealing with the peace corps to get rediagnosed again etc, ended up going to the university's health care service and they treated me and followed me during the time I was a student.

Since then, I have had chronic intestinal problems . But intestinal problems are hard to diagnosis and impossible to identify the origin of... so I never even bothered asking Peace Corps for any help with it because I knew that it would be a frustrating waste of time -- even though the first problems I ever had with my intestine were in country. I don't think I ever really healed right from those infections...

So there's my story. I hope the telling of it and the rest of these accounts will help to initiate the legislation and funding required (operating procedures and regulations don't do it), to be truely responsible and responsive to the critical and varied health care needs of the American citizens who are currently serving as Peace Corps Volunteers around the world.

Janet Sandoval Morocco 77-80

By catalin kaser on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 3:41 pm: Edit Post

Some info on malaria for htide et al.: my husband and I took all our meds without fail, including finishing the dosages for the prescribed time after leaving malarial countries, and we still got malaria after returning to the U.S. One type of malaria parasite hangs out in the liver and the prophylaxis that we take while in country only kill the parasite when it enters the blood (flares up). Another medicine is given to take once you leave the malarial area which is supposed to kill the parasites in the liver, but it is only about 70% effective. Yes, it's true that some volunteers are careless and reckless, but probably not in greater proportion than in the American population at large.

To Phillip: I served in two programs, visited my brother in a third, heard stories from my father-in-law and many friends about many other programs. I've never met anyone who regretted their time in the Peace Corps, even those who left early. Stories of wrangling with admin are common, but not universal. In-country admins are really diverse, with different tones set by individual personalities. I worked with very supportive in-country PC staff. But, like someone else said, PC-Washington is a huge bureaucracy, where there is definitely room for improvement. If you're lucky, when you reach into the blackberry bush you'll get fruit without being pricked. If you're less lucky, you'll have a few scratches, and if you're really unlucky, you might fall into the blackberry bush, but even so, you'll come out with some juicy berries and a story to tell.

By Susanr on Thursday, July 31, 2003 - 11:57 am: Edit Post

I was a volunteer in the Carribbean from 79-81 --We all seemed to be sick a lot , not with exotic tropical illnesses--I got an ulcer. Most of my problems were stress related-But PC arranged for me to see a counselor at the Embassy. I felt well cared for while I was there.
At my COS physical the Dr. found some cysts that needed to be surgically removed. Since I was leaving I waited until I came home--That was kind of a mistake --dealing with Workman's Comp was difficult--but not impossible. The Dr., hospital etc all took me on faith & eventually were paid.
I always say that my Peace Corps experience was "the best of times & the worst of times" I was robbed several times--know women who were raped. But just this passed weekend I got together with my local group of RPCVs ( I'm also marrried to one)I think we all would do it again.
Sara--you're in my prayers & Phillip-GO!!

By josh-pctogo on Thursday, July 31, 2003 - 7:40 pm: Edit Post

I think my experience pales in comparison to what ive read above, bit i'd like to add my name to the disturbingly long list of those RPCVs who feel thoroughly shafted by the buraeucratic nightmare of PC Health Admin. My experience simply involves dental work. I bit down on a rock one day in village while eating breakfast with some villagers. The tooth hurt bad at the time, but i figured with only a few months left, i figured to not get treated by the legendarily awful dentists in country and id get the pain well documented by the Medical Office so as to cause no discrepencies stateside when i got the work done. now, almost a year since leaving and 8 months after having fixed the tooth and having my treatment approved, disapproved, approved and then disapproved again, my dentist still hasnt gotten paid. the nightmare of miscommunication between FECA and more improtantly the people in indiana who issue the checks and PC Washington makes for a overhwelming and disgusting wave of forms, calls and unnecessary approvals. coming back to the first world and attempting to reintegrate without going crazy is hard on all levels. however, to have PC add another level of anger and frustration but not properly cleaning up the mess that is made in/on our bodies while WORKING FOR THEM, is atrocious. beyond atrocious, it is a disgrace. i am disgraced that something i so thoroughly devoted myself to could so thoroughly shit on me on the other end, largely by way of a gross and glaring ineffeciency. i am sure that at one point in time, RPCVs took unnecessary advantage of health services upon return. now, the safeguards designed to prevent that are not only frustrating, but potentially life threatening. a weak and feeble person, bedragled by some god-awful third world illness and an overwhelming effort to accept being american again is never, in any way, shape or form, fit to fight a bureaucracy. therefore, many probably just give up, and either lose money or get sicker, both of which ive seen happen.
either way, this is a thing that, until it is fixed, should be revealed. people joining and leaving the organisation need to be fully aware of just how great the health risks are, both during and after, how much money they'll lose in repairing themselves and also be made aware of how little chance they have of remaining healthy and properly taken care of as an RPCV.

By bankass.com on Thursday, July 31, 2003 - 11:43 pm: Edit Post

To Love the Peace Corps and THIDE? Why didn't you folks identify yourselves? 22 Volunteers killed died or missing since 1996. Too many. Reform with Attrition, Safety and Health is vital and former volunteers like you are an obstacle to it changing. Thanks for the patronizing opinion. I am glad I got under your skin. Thanks for your participation. Daniel

By htide on Friday, August 01, 2003 - 7:24 pm: Edit Post

Ok lets do a little math on peace corps death rate vs american death rate. in 2002 us death rate was 8.7 deaths per 1000 people .87% of popluation died.

We then take bankasses 22 death missing etc. since 1996. So since it not complete 2003 we will take up to 2002. which would be 7 years. Lets then take current Numbers of volunteers which is actually a little lower then last few years. Currently there are 6678 volunteers. So 6678 x 7 = 46746. Ok so if 22 people dies in that time period that would make 22/46746 = 4.706 E- 4 or .0004706. This is .04706 % of total number of serving volunteers for those 7 years right. and in terms of a death rate .0004706 x 1000 gives us a death rate of.4706 deaths per 1000 people.

Therefore in comparision to the death rate in the us of 8.7 people per 10000, the risk of death in peace corps is SUBSTANTIALLY LESS then living in USA. So whats this about poor care for volunteers bankass???

By bankass.com on Saturday, August 02, 2003 - 11:09 am: Edit Post

I am so glad you get into these statistics. These are the 22 that I know of. Have you read the Statistics in the Safety GAO Report done in 2001 that proves that violence against volunteers has increased three fold since the 1980's. I am so glad you did not have to go through this type of experience.

For thirty years Peace Corps has proudly pronounced that 30% attrition rate is normal. I don't think they speak the truth. I also don't think its normal. Be true to yourself. How many volunteers that you went into service with completed thier full two years? I know its at least 45%. Of those folks, how many get treated right? I would say many don't.

Measuring the death rate to the US population is like comparing apples to oranges. We are a select group serving our country an another country. The program needs to be stronger from within taking care of one another. Not leaving people out in the bush like sitting ducks by themselves, on the borders of countries or back in AMERICA NOT CARED FOR DUE TO SERVICE RELATED INJURIES.

And if you want to get particular. Nancy Coutu was murdered in 1996. Since 1998 21 Volunteers have been killed, died or missing.

Also, I don't know why you are not for reducing the death of volunteers, improved health care, and improved attrition rates. I don't know your motives?

You still have not identified yourself. If you have real guts you make yourself public.

By IDE on Saturday, August 02, 2003 - 4:00 pm: Edit Post

I' m going to say even the SS is unionized.

By bankass.com on Saturday, August 02, 2003 - 5:29 pm: Edit Post

This is not about being unionized or ss. Its about peoples lives, people like yourself that served in Peace Corps. Still don't know who you are. The comment does not make sense.

By Janice williams on Sunday, August 03, 2003 - 3:17 pm: Edit Post

Five months after leaving the Peace Corps in 1968, I began going blind in my left eye. I saw specialists at my parents expense, and was told that it was a blood parasite,"probably contracted in P.C., but they couldn't say definitely." I tried many times to contact someone in P.C. Washington to report this, but was unable to reach anyone who would listen.
I have gradually gone completely blind in this eye, and of course, have great concern that I will go blind in the other, so am examined every 6-12 months. Another specialist, a few years ago, discovered another blood parasite, which was termed, "old, chronic, active," which may also have caused my condition. The ophthmologist said that it was indigenous to my P.C, area. At that time I tried filing through the P.C., but the doctor's promised letter was not as positive as he had assured me.
I now see a contagious disease specialist every six months for chronic fatigue syndrome, brought on by these diseases. He assures me that my diseases come from P.C. service, but I cannot open my case, because I was told by the DOL that I filed in an "untimely" manner. How could I claim definitely that my problems were P.C. related if the doctors were unable to do so because the diseases were so rare at that time?
My only recourse is to hire a lawyer to try have the case reopened, a very expensive proposition.

Jan Williams

By bankass.com on Monday, August 04, 2003 - 9:27 am: Edit Post

Janice,

I know there aren't many competent people to speak with at the DOL FECA office but I am going to give you two names you should contact Ed Duncan at 202-693-0040. or Debra Sanford

Your disabling traumatic injury should entitle you to COP. If you can prove that you got this disease from Peace Corps service. Untimely Manner doesn't sound right. There is no time limit to traumatic injury. At least call him ask him. He will take the time with you if you need help. It takes you awhile to get intouch with him, but keep trying.

That Chronic Fatique syndrome and the actual blood clot disease sounds as if it has direct causal relationship to your service and a time period in service. Give it a try and read the FECA program under traumatic injury and other physical disabilities. You probably alread y have but read it and call Ed with all your prepared questions.


Peace Corps, I will take $25 for that advice, I have had to learn on my own. Still Volunteering after all these years. By the way, who is getting paid at Peace Corps to do this work. Steve Weinberg. In my opinion, he is inept.


They should have a person who can help you, but as you know the Peace Corps and DOl don't coordinate or do anything for serious service related injuries. Good Luck.


Thanks Daniel

By bankass.com on Monday, August 04, 2003 - 9:48 am: Edit Post

Look at these people coming on the website with their own medical concerns

The NPCA should go on TV and put out a 1-800- number for the care of these volunteers. But they won't because they could care less.

Hearings are coming.

Daniel

By RPCV on Tuesday, August 05, 2003 - 2:42 pm: Edit Post

I'm hearing about unions. The police are.

By RPCV on Tuesday, August 05, 2003 - 2:43 pm: Edit Post

I'm hearing about unions. The police are unionized.

By HondurasRPCV on Friday, August 08, 2003 - 8:59 pm: Edit Post

Sara - I want to add my story to show that you are not alone. When I went through the horrible treatment at the hands of the organization for which I had served as a dedicated volunteer, I felt so alone and confused. It took several years to get over the sting of betrayal, which only exacerbated the physical problems.

Near the end of service in HONDURAS, so this might identify me to many of my colleagues, and I do not feel like protecting the identity of this medical staff, I broke my leg and tore two ligaments. I knew this, because the medical staff did the right thing at first, by sending me to a specialist in country, who had been trained in the States. A thoroughly competent and caring physician who suggested that I be sent to the States to get medical care immediately.

Apparently, the medical staff was too busy to take care of the paperwork, so I had to wait 13 days to be medi-vacced. Since I was being such an inconvenience to them at the time, they did not give me per diem to stay in the capital city. I did not feel safe returning to my site, and I was concerned that if I left the capital that I would be forgotten completely by the staff. At the time, my country director was on vacation for 3 weeks. I was tempted to leave many times, but was told that I would forfeit any chance for medical reimbursement and would be "e-t"ed, which was used as a threat against any uncooperative volunteers. I stayed at a friend's house because I couldn't afford a hotel. I was finally medi-vacced when the country director came back. My stay at the PC office was quite humiliating, because so many volunteers were coming to get their shots or check-outs to leave, and I just had to sit there at the back of the line and wait for the approval to leave. Additional humiliation was provided by their assumption that because I was walking around that it must not be that bad. I HAD to walk. They didn't even give me crutches, which I was informed cost 200 lempira (about $25 at the time). The kind Honduran doctor gave me an old crutch he had in his office.

When I was medi-vacced, the doctor I saw in D.C., took one look at my medical report, saw that it was in Spanish, and instead of getting it translated, said "those doctors don't know anything in those countries..." (This is where PC could at least have translated the report!), and proceeded to do the WRONG OPERATION, or have his resident do it, because that is who was left to deal with me when I woke up from anasthesia. I have a letter stating they did the wrong operation, and stating because the information was given in Spanish. The problem with the office visit, and why he couldn't assess my injuries correctly was because after 2 weeks of walking around on the leg, it had become so swollen, he couldn't even bend it with forcing.

They sent me home. I'm from a small town where the closest medical facility was 30 miles away, and they didn't have an orthopaedic specialist, and refused to take Worker's Comp cases because of the paperwork. It took SIX MONTHS to get approval to just see a doctor, the surgery was scheduled to take place immediately. I did not receive approval for the surgery for a month. But instead of waiting this time, I called my congressman (THAT IS GREAT ADVICE).

When I finally did submit my paperwork, and claimed compensation for all the time I was out of work, the Department of Labor sent an investigator to my house two days before Christmas. She was so appalled about the state of my leg (which had shrivelled from not being used for long), she helped me personally with the paperwork for physical therapy. She helped me get the therapy extended for a year so that I could regain normal use of my leg.

All along the way, the severe lack of sympathy on the part of the Peace Corps medical staff was very damaging to my perception of my experience. Everything else had gone rather smoothly up until this point. What horrifies me is to hear other stories that are much worse, such as Sara's, and to feel that powerlessness all over again. When will Peace Corps get it? When will our volunteers be respected for their important contribution and be given the basic medical coverage they are promised as part of their recruitment? I advise anyone I know who is going to get private medical insurance. Do they listen? I hope so. I try not to taint their impressions of the Peace Corps with the full story here, but I do want them to be aware that the large volume of people being handled by the system can lead to these type of stories.

Bless you Sara, and god speed on your recovery.

By bankass.com on Saturday, August 09, 2003 - 2:59 pm: Edit Post

HondurasRPCV, Tom Webb,NSteveson, and others giving their stories. Thanks. I know its alot to send in these stories.

To Love the Peace Corps, and the other former staffers who have made their money off the program, "then put people down" or watched these injustices while they were working there and did nothing, perhaps, you saw me or one of these stories. What did you do? You watched and made money. (That is part of the spiritual decline of our culture, I can't help that)

Move on. Moveon.org has Howard Dean and his ideas on reform in health care. He has assured us Peace Corps health care is on his radar screen.

The nonsense talk about me and other "the off the wall" comments are what they are. I will let them speak for themselves.

Hope all you folks keep up writing in and letting the Congress and the rest of the Peace Corps family the real story.

Daniel

Wish Sara and family good health in the days to come.

By Jim Fox on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 3:11 am: Edit Post

PC 1964-69. At that time it was presumed that the full resources of the United States were available if a PCV got into trouble. In exchange for a 24/7, "volunteer" service, in medically risky conditions; that was the deal.

It typically worked, especially with conscientious in-country doctors and directors. Back home however, even then you could quickly become lost in a vast uncaring bureaucracy.

For most PCV's the overall experience is generally positive. However, for those few that get caught by accident or disease, we should demand adequate support, no matter what it takes. The "re-adjustment allowance" is not adequate to diagnose or treat strange tropical diseases, or to take on a stonewalling bureaucracy.

PCV's should be warned to treat or document as much as possible while still in-country, if possible. Trust nothing. It's a different world back home. Talk comes cheap, and "Support" means waving a flag.

We also need a real RPCV organization that will look after PCV and real Peace interests, -- rather than kissing up to the bureaucracy and the status quo.

By danielle l on Friday, October 03, 2003 - 12:50 pm: Edit Post

Nothing very serious happened to me in the Peace Corps or as a result of my service. I did have some intestinal problems throughout my service and for a year or so upon my return, but they were manageable. I had an authorization to see a doctor for the intestinal problems, and I consulted with my primary care physician and was referred to a gastroenterologist, who did a few tests. The total bill came out somewhere around $400, of which PC eventually paid nearly $300. Because I had the authorization I didn't need to fill out much paperwork, but I was never really clear on how my referred treatment would work. Questions went in unanswered, I sent copies of bills to PC and never knew what to expect. I think it took about 8 months to get reimbursed. I was fairly satisfied with the process.

As for my medical care in PC, I personally thought the PCMOs in Ghana were great. I was there from 97-99, and they were always very helpful to me. I knew people with much more serious conditions than I had, and they all seemed to be treated pretty well. As for follow-up care after service, I haven't heard of anyone who needed anything too extensive. The few complaints that I heard had to do with some people who got labeled as hypochondriacs (probably because they were, or cried wolf too much), and then there was one story of a woman who was medevac'ed to Cote D'Ivoire and her husband (who was serving with her) was not allowed to come along. But nothing too major.

I think the mefloquine business is something of a concern, but there is no clearcut way to deal with it. I think we did not get enough information about that drug, and our concerns about it were brushed aside. If someone had a reaction, they let them take doxy instead, but that was discouraged. Since PC I've heard that now mefloquine is not recommended for people at risk for certain mental conditions (depression, bipolar disorder, things of that nature). I wonder how many people had to become depressed from mefloquine before that was added to the packaging?

By Bankass.com on Friday, October 03, 2003 - 3:02 pm: Edit Post

I Hear you Jim. What am I going to ask a board member at the NPCA who was a in the executive office of Peace Corps?

That particular person probably buried the very concerns we are seeking. I think they do a good job at those type of activities. That is what Peace Corps and the NPCA has become. Border line cover up of these issues.

We are getting alot of support in the Congress now. Peace Corps volunteer salaries were increased. This is something we aided in advocating for. It supports safety to some degree.

As you know, we need a lawyer and an organization dedicated to volunteers and former volunteers with real issues. However, we may do just what you have been talking about starting an online group for former volunteer needs. Not just separated Peace corps Veterans but all volunteers with an emphasis on separated volunteers. The reason is to keep the bureaucracy in check from wrong doing and treating people with dignity.

For my detractors, I will pray for you.

Never forget 26 Volunteers killed died or missing. Walter Poirier is still misssing today.
Senator Kennedy or Presidential flunky should use their own money out of their campaign funds to put a private investigator on his case. Or Vasquez should provide some of the 25,000 reward money for a continued investigation.

Daniel

Separated Peace Corps Veterans

By bankass.com (0-1pool136-7.nas12.somerville1.ma.us.da.qwest.net - 63.159.136.7) on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 6:45 am: Edit Post

My FECA claim was denied yesterday. You see, if you go through these types of safety breeches Peace Corps has methods of making their problem go away.

They use this system to hurt volunteers who have been victimized and hurt to further hurt volunteers rights.

The system of FECA, separations and claims relating to a safety incident must be administered by volunteers who have gone through these breeches at Peace Corps and be trained by the Department of Labor. There is job dvelopment relevant to service. Better job development and better post services.

Now there is a novel idea.

Why hasn't Peace Corps thought of this?

They have and want to deny claims.

When the hearings come in the spring they should be coupled with this provision toward providing and strealining volunteer health, safety and job development.

By Discrimination (ca527-ch01-bl02.tx-dallas0.sa.earthlink.net - 207.69.139.7) on Sunday, October 01, 2006 - 11:14 pm: Edit Post

We volunteered our time to our village, the people there, the staff at Peace Corps (so they can have their job), the American People and to the United States government.

Contribution.

What has the Peace Corps or former volunteers in a position to really do something substantial for reform?


If you served in Peace Corps had a safety or health incident and were separated for it. I would say sixty five percent of these people never really get a good job in the government or federal contracting. Yea, there are cases of people getting good jobs.

But, there are thousands of volunteers who can't be on equal footing with the administrators or medical services in their claim or separation.

We need two to three lawyers to work for our rights as volunteers and advocacy for health care after service related injuries. Volunteer services is a joke.

Why does the Peace Corps need a team of lawyers to work against the "Volunteer's American citizenship rights"? The Administrators are not the program. We as volunteers are the program.

Members of Congresss and and RPCV's have to remember this.

Ruining the careers of a person who went through an incident of safety or health such as rape, trauma or victim of violence is not what we as volunteers joined the Peace Corps for.

Medical services has performed medical malpractice and medical negligence for years.

Discrimination is when you "discriminate against a population of folks". Peace Corps has definetly discriminated against these above volunteers. There is no question.

This should be the discussion in Congress.

By Coward (ca208-ch03-bl01.il-chicago0.sa.earthlink.net - 207.69.137.34) on Saturday, October 07, 2006 - 11:45 am: Edit Post

Dodd is just a grandstander and has done nothing for years. If you listen to him or go along with his thoughts, you will get the kind of health care you got from Peace Corps.

He could have helped years ago. When he says he will help watch out, there is something up his sleeve.

Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil at Peace Corps.

Hello, where is the reform?

This web site always promotes this guy. He is a joke as a former volunteer. Coward comes to mind.

By Joel Fritzler (ws209140.orda.siu.edu - 131.230.209.140) on Thursday, November 30, 2006 - 12:01 pm: Edit Post

I had "worked myself out of a job" by preparing my two counterparts to assume my duties but I still had six months left so my APCD told me to go check out a possible new site. While returning from an isolated village, I was a passenger in the backseat of a car that flipped and rolled three times. That was in Sept. 1991. I was still suffering from constant back and neck pain when I returned to the States in Aug. 1992. At that time, PC didn't allow chiropractic care but allowed me to visit orthopedic and osteopathic physicians. Each of those said, "You're lucky to be alive, you're just getting older, I can give you stronger pain meds." Fortunately, I ran into an old friend who had just completed his studies in sports chiropractic medicine. After four months of treatments (paid out of my pocket), I felt that he had "put me back together" although I wasn't 100 percent since I still couldn't go running without feeling pain. I would go in for an appointment about once every three or four months until I moved from Oregon to Illinois to become a PC Fellow. I still deal with the pain and visit him whenever I go back to Oregon for a visit. I have probably spent a couple thousand dollars in the last 14 years. Does PC allow for chiropractic care now?

By illinois (dialup-4.159.237.197.dial1.chicago1.level3.net - 4.159.237.197) on Saturday, December 16, 2006 - 12:27 am: Edit Post

There has been some talk about setting up an organization to deal with post-service and other volunteer medical and advocacy issues.


http://irregulartimes.com/diaries/2006/12/a-veterans-administration-for-peace-corps/

By K. Clark, RPCV/Yemen (dialup-4.233.140.213.dial1.manchester1.level3.net - 4.233.140.213) on Wednesday, July 18, 2007 - 8:52 am: Edit Post

Please join us at the OWCP Yahoo! Group.

The Group (groups.yahoo.com/group/owcp) is for RPCVs and others who have federal workers' compensation claims with the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP), U.S. Dept. of Labor. The purpose of the Group is to assist claimants in their dealings with OWCP. The Group may function as a support group, information resource, brainstorming arena, etc.

By michael vickner (74.74.230.81) on Thursday, February 04, 2010 - 7:26 pm: Edit Post

hi how surprized to read that i am not alone. i was a PCV in kenya until Dec.21th 2009 when i was given a medical seperation. i was attack in Nairobi sustained numerous facial fractures, 3 titanium plates and spent 10 days in the hospital. i sustained a brain injury and was given 5 days to pack up and return to the US since that time i have had e-mails not returned 10 phone calls that have gonen to voice mail. i feel like i was a libility to the goverment and it was time to get rid of me. having a brain injury seems to have make the whole process much harder. i borrowed money to go into the peace corps and return with out a place to live, car , phone and it is the middle of winter. i'm 57 years old i wonder how do i find work and what do i say i was in the peace corps and had a brain injury but i'm fine to work for you now??? in the end i think sending people home is not for our good only the goverments. thanks mike vickner

By Ashley Bignardi (199.85.237.112) on Sunday, April 18, 2010 - 4:51 pm: Edit Post

I completly understand what you are going through. I did not have any medical problems thank god, when I left the Peace Corps. I did not do all the medical checks in my host country so I had to do them in the states. When I went to my doctor and my dentist I had a couple of papers and it wasn't explained to me properly. I did everyting on the page and submitted the papers for payment.
Next i got pnemonia from what I concluded was the weather shock. I had to fight with the Peace Corps about paying for that.
Then I get a call saying they are not paying for some of the lab works I had done. "Why not, I was told to do this" I never questioned anything they wanted me to do becuase I had heard other people from previous groups having to do this. After fighting back and forth back and forth with a lot of angry phone calls and a ton of faxes they agreed to pay for everything
I JUST THINK THEY WANT TO SEE HOW LONG SOMEONE WILL HOLD OUT FOR AND JUST PAY IT THEMSELVES!!! SELFISH, THEY MAKE US PAY FOR ALL OUR MEDICAL CLEREANCE BUT GIVE US THIS MANY PROBLEMS WHEN WE LEAVE!

I am not done yet litterally 6 months later I get a bill in the mail for again some lab work. I called med services in D.C and they told me I was to call CorpsCare. I said NO they were taking care of this today or I would call every TV station and news friends I have if thats what it takes. The lady on the phone said to fax (again) her the bill. I receved a voicaiol a day later saying it was being taken care of.
(lets hope)

By Susan Powell Miller (75.211.98.30) on Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - 3:25 pm: Edit Post

I was in Thailand I (l961-1964)and had a very different experience from those above. During service,I developed a tumor on my back. The Peace Corps insisted that I have it removed before I returned home, saying they wanted me to return in as good a condition as when I arrived. They sent me to a Bankok hospital to have it done. I didn't have to sign for anything or pay for anything.

By Tracy Smith (108.91.185.104) on Friday, March 09, 2012 - 12:38 pm: Edit Post

I served in the Peace Corps 92-93 in a small South American village. While I loved my host family, the people I trained with were competitive and mean spirited and not at all supportive. I spent loads of time with my host family and getting to know the natives. At the end of training, I was told that I was being sent to "a tough site" because that was the "best place for me" this man really did not like me and I decided to change my site because it was very unsafe. Well, this got tongues wagging and I was made to feel like a pariah from the rest of the volunteers. I did the best I could but ended up being medi-vaced due to a severe mental breakdown. The care I got in DC was phenomenal! I actually met two other Peace Corps volunteers there. However, re-adjusting when I returned home was a nightmare, no one could relate to what I had been through and I suffered further emotional abuse from my psychiatrist. I eventually found my way and am doing very well. Please, if you want to serve, don't let any of those people in power push you around, stand up for yourself, don't be naive and serve with another volunteer. Or better yet, don't join the Peace Corps.

By Lloyd Ziegler (166.137.116.32) on Thursday, September 19, 2013 - 9:20 am: Edit Post

I served in the PC from 1969-1972 in West Africa. Got deathly ill from Bacillary Dysentry, and immediately developed a severe neck ache that never went away permanently, just came and went at odd times. I returned home; never got any sort of physical! I was so ignorant of any recourse I might have had.
Long, long story short, it gradually kept getting worse and worse and my neck/back stiffer and more painful as years went by. I am now badly crippled up; at least I got disability a few years ago, fat consolation.
I know where I was PC health care was just a total joke. I literally had more faith in the village herbalist.


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