Don't blame Peace Corps

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2003: July 2003 Peace Corps Headlines: July 5, 2003 - PCOL Exclusive: A Volunteer's Courage : Don't blame Peace Corps

By RPCV 1995-97 ( - on Monday, December 15, 2003 - 11:47 pm: Edit Post

As an RPCV who had numerous health issues to deal with after Peace Corps, and one who has dealt with FECA and DOL for over 6 years, I am well-acquainted with these issues. First, people need to separate issues with Peace Corps medical care from issues with care after Peace Corps. Peace Corps is no more responsible for the problems of DOL and FECA than it would be if the IRS made a mistake in processing a volunteer's tax return. FECA is incredibly incompetent--I myself have mailed and remailed claims, called only to get no followup, and been given the run-around for over 2 years trying to recoup $2000 in reimbursments. However, once you leave Peace Corps, this is what you get---and this is not Peace Corps' doing but a general issue for the federal government.

People also need to recognize that as adults, we have responsability for our own lives and for managing our health care. We have to learn how to fill out forms, find doctors, and make decisions. Ordinary people do this every day with their HMOs and private health care plans. That is part of being an adult in the US, where we don't have government-sponsored health care. Many volunteers seem to become used to having everything provided to them in Peace Corps, and do not know how to take the initiative to manage their own needs after they leave.

It takes time and effort, but I can say with no reservation that I have gotten complete care thanks to my FECA benefits--better care than I would ever have gotten from any health insurance plan. I have seen the best doctors. I have never had my care questioned or denied. But this was not because I relied on Peace Corps to do it for me. It was because I spent the time to learn the system, locate doctors that would work with me, and make sure that forms were filled out correctly. All of the necessary information was available in the book that Peace Corps gave me when I left. If I needed to, I looked at the DOL website and downloaded the forms that I needed. I even called DOL---probably 100 times. It was frustrating--but it worked.

I can also guarantee that the anecdotal stories of people who were "sent home and never got follow up care" are incomplete. I know plenty of people who didn't bother to take care of themselves and blamed Peace Corps. I hate to see the staff at Peace Corps excoriated, particularly by people who base their reasons on gossip, frustration, or one-sided pictures. The people at Peace Corps were some of the most caring and helpful people that I ever met. Certainly more caring and helpful than staff at Blue Cross or DOL. These people work at Peace Corps because they WANT to, not because they simply need a job. They aren't perfect, but again, compare them to people that you deal with in other government offices or service-related companies. It's a disgrace that DOL staff and Peace Corps staff are probably considered equal within the federal government.

Peace Corps was created to provide help to other countries, and in the process give Americans the opportunity to serve. That is the mandate of the Peace Corps. Managing the personal lives of former volunteers is not. I, for one, would rather have them spending time on current volunteers. If we managed to get into Peace Corps and be resourceful enough to live and work overseas, we should certainly be able to take care of ourselves when were finished.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) ( - on Wednesday, December 17, 2003 - 7:40 pm: Edit Post

Dear RPCV 1995-97:
I would hope you might reexamine some of the assumptions you have made about every RPCV's ability to manage the post peace corps system.
1) You assume that no RPCV has a health condition which makes it difficult or impossible for him/her to negotiate the system, successfully. For example, the GAO report noted that many medevacs for mental health reasons were subsequent to physical assault. Standard protocols should be in place to make sure that these returning volunteers are not retramatized because they can't get prompt and appropriate care.
2) You assume that all RPCVs have the time and space and MONEY to find and fund appropriate medical care...pending reimbursement.
3) You assume that there is good coordination/communication between PC/Wash; country of service and the DOL - that records are not lost, etc.

I think the GAO report of 2002; The story "A Volunteer's Courage" and Dayon series as well as the comments from RPCVs demonstrate well that there are system problem. We ought to be able to advocate for fair treatment for RPCVS without being accused of compromising core mission of the Peace Corps or encourging volunteers to go "soft."

I admire Daniel because he is persistant, he doesn't give an inch and he is working on behalf of vulnerable individuals. Back in the day, that is what Peace Corps was all about. Ciao. Joey
RPCV 63-65

By Daniel ( - on Wednesday, December 17, 2003 - 9:31 pm: Edit Post


I thank you. As you know, I loved my Peace Corps experience except for my final days and especially my post peace corps experience. There are times I need those words of encouragement. My day will come for somesort of justice in my situation. Until that day, I will continue to do what I can to change the system.

Personally, I try to keep my head up and know that God is on my side.

I do respond to people like RPCV above. I probably shouldn't, but it is important to have rapid response to those who may not understand some of our perspectives or what we have been through. I am coming to an understanding in my life that communicating or responding like this may not produce results.

There is one point you make which I feel is very poignant? (spelling). You say volunteers could be retraumatized by the way we are treated. I can tell you. Experiencing the non responsiveness from Peace Corps in these areas and getting treated personally like we are "the enemy", has provided me with an understanding so profound that it has helped me become a stronger person in public affairs. My disillutionment with Peace Corps has showed me change in government is very difficult and a life journey.

The retraumatization does occur to alot of folks who have been treated by Peace Corps with a "blackballing mentality". By slamming the door shut on our true experiences alienates us from a group who we have similar experiences. To top it off, we really are really black balled from serving in government again because in order to serve the government again we have to admit Peace Corps is right. For the people who say that is not true. Just try to apply with after being separated from Peace Corps service wrongfully. You will have to detail your experiences again and again and then ultimately won't be hired because of that one day or a short period of time in our life. It is arcane Peace Corps continues this system by not helping separated veterans.

The volunteers who are trying to reform the agency in all its aspects is important from my point of view to make it a better Peace Corps for the future, something all who served can be proud of.

By Daniel ( - on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 8:27 am: Edit Post


I know Senator Kennedy is great on some issues, but he has been cordial on our issues. I know his staff doesn't know how to handle it. Most of them have not served or been through these experiences. I can't help that.

Kerry, don't waste your time. If you have read Eileen Mcnamara's Piece in the Globe this week, that is the true story. That is why I am helping someone else in the primary for President. He doesn't help fellow democrats or constiuents.

Senator Voinvich and Dewine have been helpful. Next month hearings are going to begin. If you have a chance, if you could call or write to one of them I would and many others would appreciate it.

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