health-justice-pcvs@googlegroups.comIf you have any feedback on how we can make our new website better please do contact us. We would like to hear from you.
 

October 2, 2013

Posted by Peace Corps

Following up on Carrie’s behalf, I’m happy to update you on where we’re at and how things are progressing. Carrie is diligently preparing for her confirmation hearing, and we are hopeful it will be scheduled soon. As you probably remember from the fact sheet we shared a few months back, we have taken several steps in the last few years to improve health services and support for both current and returned volunteers, and we continue to build on these steps. Below are some of the ways we are doing that.

 ·       Peace Corps has hired new staff:

o   Billing specialist to focus on Post Service/FECA billing issues (Mr. Sanjay Duggal)

o   Nurse advocate and FECA case manager (Beth Brooks, RN)

§  Nurse advocate and billing specialist will receive specialized training at the Department of Labor to help in troubleshooting RPCVs’ FECA billing issues 

·       Peace Corps is working to implement the recommendations of Susan Southwell, nurse consultant, on how Peace Corps can improve the Post Service Unit

·       Peace Corps leadership has met with leadership from the Department of Labor’s Office of Workers' Compensation Programs earlier this year, with plans for further engagement at the leadership level to strengthen cooperation

·       The Department of Labor has expanded the conditions that can be directly paid by Peace Corps without a FECA claim and increased the amount that can be paid for these conditions

·       Peace Corps’ Post Service Unit is collaborating with State Department staff to share ideas on how we can best address re-adjustment issues for returning Peace Corps volunteers, as both Peace Corps and the State Department work in similar international environments

·       Peace Corps launched the Department of Labor’s ECOMP program so RPCVs can file claims and forms electronically and track their status, resulting in a more rapid and transparent process

o   Peace Corps’ Post Service Unit will soon be updating its guidance to RPCVs to include ECOMP instructions

·       Peace Corps is investing in improvements to phone systems in the Post Service Unit and Office of Health Services so callers can more easily and more quickly reach staff 

We greatly appreciate your commitment to ensuring current and returned Peace Corps volunteers receive the highest standard of care, and I assure you that we share that commitment. The health, safety and security of our volunteers are our highest priorities. Please encourage all returned volunteers with concerns to contact the Peace Corps Post Service Unit at psu@peacecorps.gov. We can best serve those looking for assistance by hearing from them directly and addressing their case individually, one-on-one.

Once Carrie’s confirmation process wraps up, we look forward to talking further about our efforts and our progress. Thank you for your continued support!

Shira Kramer

Press Director

Peace Corps

skramer@peacecorps.gov


August 9, 2013

Posted by Peace Corps

Staying safe, preventing malaria

Posted on August 9, 2013 by Peace Corps

By Barry G. Simon, M.D., Peace Corps Medical Director, Office of Medical Services

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration updated its warning label on the anti-malarial drug mefloquine hydrochloride, and there has been a surge in news coverage lately about the side effects of medications used to prevent malaria.

The Peace Corps takes these warnings very seriously and has taken proactive steps to ensure that Volunteers have all of the information they need to make an informed decision about the anti-malaria medication that is right for them, in collaboration with their Peace Corps Medical Officer.

Before beginning any kind of anti-malaria regimen, every Volunteer has an individual, one-on-one consultation with their Medical Officer to discuss the pros and cons of each medication and all possible risks and side effects. Volunteers can revisit their choice of medication at any time during their service, and while mefloquine continues to be an FDA-approved medication for malaria prevention, Volunteers who wish to request a change in medication can do so simply by talking with their Peace Corps Medical Officer. This policy is in place at every Peace Corps post worldwide, and the Peace Corps is working hard to make sure each and every Volunteer is familiar with the options available to them.

The Peace Corps uses a multi-pronged approach to combat malaria among Volunteers, which includes training on prevention, provision of insecticide-treated bed nets, screening for windows in all Volunteers’ homes, and a choice of one of four types of medication, each of which has proven extremely effective in suppressing malaria. With the proper use of bed nets, protective clothing, insect repellents and anti-malarial medication, the chances of developing active malaria are significantly reduced.

The Peace Corps’ Office of Health Services continually updates its policy on malaria suppressive medications based on the best medical information available and is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor any further developments. Currently serving Volunteers who have questions about their health care can contact the Peace Corps’ Quality Improvement Unit at qualitynurse@peacecorps.gov. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers with concerns about their health care can contact the Peace Corps’ Post Service Unit at psu@peacecorps.gov.


July 39, 2013
Black Box Warning Label for Larium at Long Last!
T
he FDA has just declared Lariam a dangerous neurotoxin that can do
permanent damage.  According to the articles, the military is using
Lariam as a last resort medication.  

Here are some articles:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/30/business/fda-strengthens-warnings-on-lariam-anti-malaria-drug.html?_r=0


July 25, 2013
Below is an announcement from the NPCA:

Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee included language for the Peace Corps Equity Act in the State/Foreign Operations Bill for Fiscal Year 2014.  This is language that would fix the current inequity through which Peace Corps Volunteers are the only individuals serving our nation overseas who are not allowed abortion services in the narrow circumstances of rape, incest or life endangerment.

 
Our next step is to collect thousands of RPCV signatures and comments on a Peace Corps Equity Act Statement of Support that NPCA and other groups are starting to circulate.  

TAKE ACTION NOW:  

Please follow this link and take action:


 
After you sign the Statement of Support, share this message with other Returned Peace Corps Volunteers through your various networks.

Thank you for taking this important action.

July 10, 2013

Please take a look at new health guidelines from Peace Corps. We'd like your input - either here or confidentially at: heatlhjusticepeacecorpsvols@gmail.com.

From Shira Kramer, Press Director Peace Corps:
I’d like to point out some new inf
ormation recently posted to the Peace Corps website on our efforts to ensure the health of volunteers both during and after service that might be of interest to you and your readers. The document is posted on a few different pages of our website:

http://www.peacecorps.gov/learn/whyvol/medicalben/

http://files.peacecorps.gov/multimedia/pdf/learn/benefits/health_progress_fact_sheet.pdf

It outlines the latest steps the agency has taken to improve the quality of healthcare services and support for both current and returned volunteers.


June 21, 2013

We dialoged with Carrie Hessler-Radelet about progress being made with improvements in health issues affecting PCVs and RPCVs. As a result the following formal statement was made by Peace Corps Press Director, Shira Kramer.

“The Peace Corps Office of Health Services provides medical and mental health services and support to the Peace Corps community and strives to promote a patient-centered culture that embraces quality, safety, and service satisfaction.

 

To ensure the Peace Corps continues to provide quality care, the agency offers currently serving and returned Volunteers the opportunity to ask questions and share comments and concerns. Volunteers currently in service can contact:”

1.      Quality Improvement Unit at qualitynurse@peacecorps.gov.

2.      Returned Volunteers can contact the Post Service Unit at psu@peacecorps.gov. All feedback will receive a timely response.

Also see concurrent statement by NPCA:

http://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/2013/06/peace-corps-announces-healthcare-feedback-mechanism-for-rpcvs/


June 12, 2013

Larium Update

In response to a volunteer in Ghana's question about the use of Larium, we have received this official update from a Peace Corps Offical about Peace Corps' anti-malarial policy:

"The Peace Corps is committed to malaria prevention among Volunteers, and the agency’s Office of Medical Services has recently updated its policy on malaria suppressive medications based on the best medical information available. The agency employs a multi-pronged strategy that includes training on prevention and provision of insecticide-treated bed nets, screening for windows in all Volunteers’ homes, and one of four different types of medications that suppress malaria, depending on Volunteers’ location. Volunteers have the option of a weekly or daily regimen – doxycycline and Malarone are taken daily, and mefloquine and chloroquine are taken weekly. Each of the drugs provided by the Peace Corps has been proven effective in suppressing the disease, and the safety of Volunteers is absolutely paramount to medication cost. With proper use of medications and other preventive measures, there is virtually 100 percent protection from contracting severe or complicated malaria.

The best preventive plan for malaria is considered on an individual basis after a conversation between the country’s Peace Corps Medical Officer and Volunteer upon arrival. Volunteers continue to be monitored throughout their service for medication tolerance, and preventive plans are subject to change if side effects develop. The Peace Corps routinely stresses to Volunteers the importance of following the agency’s medical recommendations to stay healthy.

This policy is being communicated to posts around the globe to ensure the practices and procedures in place – including those in Ghana – reflect these updates."



April 23, 2013

FECA Update

By Carrie Hessler-Radelet, Deputy Director, Peace Corps

Over the past several months, the Peace Corps has made diligent strides in its efforts to improve the post-service health care for returned Peace Corps Volunteers. As an RPCV myself, and now as deputy director of the Peace Corps, I understand the serious problems some RPCVs face and am committed to offering help and support.

On April 3, 2013, I met with the acting director of the Department of Labor Office of Workers Compensation Programs.  OWCP administers the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, which provides for RPCVs’ service-related post-service medical care. At the meeting, we worked on developing a framework to address specific RPCV challenges, and I followed up on prior proposals from the Peace Corps and recommendations from the Government Accountability Office report issued in November 2012.

We also hired two new staff members to work on post-service issues, both at the agency and individual RPCV levels.

At the agency level, we have reviewed the GAO report and examined the staffing and mission of our Post-Service Unit, to assess options for improving care for RPCVs. We have also reviewed relevant Peace Corps and Department of Labor regulations, policies, and instructions, and helped disseminate information from DOL to RPCVs regarding benefits and requirements under the FECA program.

We are also looking at cases involving some individual RPCVs, working with them directly to assess what problems they have encountered and providing some assistance to help them through the FECA process.

I’m heartened by the progress we’ve made so far and look forward to more. We’ll keep you posted on our progress. I do appreciate the importance of this issue to the RPCV community and thank you for your service to the Peace Corps and your country.

April 20, 2013

IMPORTANT OWCP SURVEY! PLEASE TAKE IT AND GIVE YOUR FEEDBACK!

If you have ever dealt with the Department of Labor's Office of Worker's Compensation Program, you know how difficult it can sometimes be. Carrie, Acting Director of Peace Corps is working to improve relations with the USDoL/FECA and asked us to post this survey and encourage everyone to take it. Some of us have taken it and although it only asks for infomation regarding your most recent encounter with the USDoL, we encourage you to write in the blanks your opinion overall.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/OWCP-Customer-Satisfaction-Survey

Unless we speak up they can use "no one ever complained to me" as an excuse. If we all say what we think, then that excuse is way less valid. Thanks in advance!
SurveyMonkey Powered Online Survey
www.surveymonkey.com
Welcome! The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs is committed to continuous improvement of our services with the ultimate goal of achieving total

April 17, 2013

New information from First Response Action regarding sexual assault:
[First Response Action states that] Peace Corps has a policy which restricts women from accessing services to terminate a pregnancy due to rape, incest or life endangerment. All other federal agencies (including the military now) allow people to receive services under any of those conditions - except Peace Corps. (Read more* belo
w.)

Peace Corps has been working to implement the Kate Puzey legislation and improve medical support for volunteers. They are in support of this technical change, but to ensure that the funding is approved, we need help from RPCVs and Peace Corps supporters!

Since you have been part of supporting Peace Corps survivors, I wanted to reach out to you to alert you to this issue to see if you are able to support a technical fix for this issue. Here are some ways you can help:

Writing a blog
Lending a quote to press statements
Sending letters to your member of Congress
Meeting with members of Congress
Speaking to other RPCVs, friends, colleagues, and family about this issue

If you are interested, please get in touch with me as soon as possible, so I can put you in touch with the right people. (You can absolutely support anonymously if you wish!)

Thank you for your support!

Casey, Director
First Response Action

*Since 1979, federal law has prohibited the Peace Corps from covering abortions - WITH NO EXCEPTIONS. While virtually every group of women who receive health care through the government - from federal employees to federal inmates - are eligible for abortion coverage in the cases of rape, life endangerment, and incest, Peace Corps volunteers have been deprived of this basic care. This is particularly galling in light of the fact that Peace Corps volunteers are at greater risk of sexual assault than other federally covered women.
First Response Action Coalition
www.firstresponseaction.org
http://firstresponseaction.blogspot.com/
Join First Response Action on Facebook
Take the survey on your experiences during sexual assault training


March 20, 2013

This is from the founder of First Response Action, an organization to help those who were sexually or otherwise assaulted during Peace Corps service, get the services and support they need. Please help them with a survey they are passing around. The more these issues are examined, the more improvements can be made. Thanks!
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VCWFRXZ
And check out their blog
http://firstresponseaction.blogspot.com/2013/03/survey-for-survivors-on-sexual-assault.html
_____________________________________________________________________________________

March 14, 2013
Phone meetings with two new health reform and access to health care PC consultants
:

We have just had two phone meetings with the two new consultants hired to help reform health care of Peace Corps Volunteers and to personally tackle difficult health issues.We are hopeful, as they do understand the issues and have a supportive administration under Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet.

Description of their goals and achievements forthcoming!

In the meantime the USDoL has posted information for filing Peace Corps claims:

http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/regs/compliance/InformationforPeaceCorpsVolunteers.htm
__________________________________________________________________________________________

Blog by a RPCV:

http://ajwalkleyblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/the-suffering-of-returned-peace-corps-volunteers/

The Suffering of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers

Imagine dropping everything to dedicate your life to your nation and a Third World country for 27 months. Imagine leaving behind family, friends, daily luxuries, and necessities to voluntarily help in a place and under circumstances most people would never intentionally endure.

Now imagine contracting a virus during your time volunteering for others that ravages your autonomic nervous system. Imagine not being able to stay upright for more than four hours at a time, forgetting memories that you cherish and passing out without warning. Imagine being Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) Meghan Wolf.

Meghan and I served together in Malawi, Africa, as health volunteers after graduating from college in 2007. We roomed together throughout training, lived in the same homestay village, learned the Chichewa language together, and became very close before we were each assigned to separate areas of the country for our service — Meghan to the south in Maliera and me in central Malawi in a village called Thonje. Once we were each dropped off in our respective villages, we never saw each other again.

Both of us ended up leaving Malawi prior to the end of service for different reasons; for me it was due to unsafe conditions in my village that the Peace Corps refused to help me with; for Meghan, the circumstances were much more devastating.

A Korean-American adopted when she was just a baby, Meghan is nothing if not grateful for her upbringing and life so far. “I was adopted to a First World country — I would have been dead in my hut had my mother not gotten a hold of someone in [the United States] when I was dying,” she recounted. “If I had been a [Korean] villager, I would be dead. So many people have it much worse off than me.”

Knowing of her beginnings is what inspired Meghan to apply for the Peace Corps to begin with; unfortunately, in her ninth month in-country, Meghan fell ill. She explained:

“I was so sick; every ride to the hospital in a luxury sedan on paved roads was still hell for me and they refused to let me get medications. The one I needed for my nausea costs $27 a pill; they said no meds until I had a diagnosis. Well, that took over three months at a University hospital. Thank goodness for my neurologist at the end. ‘Autonomic dysfunction’ is pretty much unheard of by most doctors. There is no treatment and no cure. They can only give different medications to alleviate symptoms. It’s different for everyone. Mine is bad.”

Likely the result of a virus she contracted in Malawi, Meghan has and continues to experience symptoms including tremors similar to Parkinson’s; chronic pain; dry heaving; vomiting; abdominal cramping; constipation; loss of memory; loss of coordination; falling; passing out; freezing muscles; low blood pressure with irregular heart rate; the inability to control her body temperature; and the inability to be vertical for more than four hours at any given time. To cope, she is on medications to slow down her brain processing which has helped with the vomiting, nausea and retching.

“Basically I’m a really old person who should be in a nursing home,” the 27-year-old says, having been diagnosed with POTS (Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome, neuropathy, fibromyalgia and sleep disorders, among other ailments.

One might think that the Peace Corps has likely helped Meghan with her medical needs since returning to the U.S., especially considering that her diagnoses and symptoms prevent her from holding down a job.

This is not the case.

In Meghan’s words:

“The Peace Corps disowned me once I left Malawi…I’m allowed nine ICD-9 codes, which are how doctors bill patients. I have a whole lot more. So that’s what the government covers, otherwise I cannot get health insurance. I cannot even afford Medicare; it’s $300 a month and covers nothing. I’m not eligible for life insurance and I’m not allowed to work. Social Security says I am eligible for $29 a month and they refuse to even pay me that, even after appeal after appeal and a judge ruled in my favor. They give you the run around and there’s nothing you can do. I spend 45 minutes on hold only to get a person who doesn’t really speak English and cannot help me in the least. They tell you they will call you back and never do. They have you send in mounds of paperwork on shoestring deadlines.”

Meghan now struggles daily with no end in sight. All the more troubling is the fact that she is not alone. On the contrary, she is one of dozens, if not hundreds or even thousands of other RPCVs who have come back to the U.S. injured and sick, only to find out that the government they had dedicated themselves to has forsaken them.

Nancy Tongue, founder of Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers, related her own struggle that she has been dealing with since the 1980s:

“I got sick at the end of my time in Chile (1982) and have struggled to get help from the Peace Corps and the Federal government for nearly three decades…I may also never be able to work again and it is truly a challenge to live out my life at poverty level (or just enough above it on Federal Workers’ Comp that keeps us ineligible for Medicaid), while fighting to get every bill paid.”

Tongue’s site describes the problem as having started with the Peace Corps’ beginnings in 1961:

“No one, when the Peace Corps was founded, had the foresight to create an appropriate infrastructure to care for the acutely or chronically ill or injured. When our Americans went to the front lines to help improve the lives of others in impoverished areas of the world, the fact that they could return home broken from diseases such as tuberculosis, parasites, meningitis, encephalitis, malaria, side effects from anti-malarial medications and other rare tropical and infectious diseases that exist in the 139 countries in which volunteers have served, seems not to have been considered.”

There are multiple testimonials on the site Tongue has set up that intend to raise awareness about this systemic problem that has not been dealt with properly now for over 50 years.

One of the RPCVs who are involved in Tongue’s organization is Roger Landry, who served in Zambia, Africa, between February 1995 and September 1995 at the age of 55. While serving, he was involved in a motorcycle training accident on June 6, 1995, that left him with right-sided sciatica; he has been experiencing numbness in the right anterolateral thigh and right medial calf, and difficulty walking on uneven surfaces as a result and these symptoms have only worsened with age. He has been diagnosed with a Class II gait disorder, as well as a loss of function due to sensory deficit/pain in the right lower extremity, leaving him with a total disability of 25% of his entire body.

Now 71, Landry has been dealing with the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) for over 18 years with nothing to show for it. Landry explained:

“Because I am dealing with the DOL/OWCP, I live in poverty. Because I was not a lawyer, I do not write my appeals in a lawyerly manner, so I get a reply, ‘Has not met the burden of proof.’ When I ask them, ‘Where can I fix my appeal to be suitable?’ they tell me to go on the website. I suffer from PTSD from my injury and dealing with the DOL/OWCP. I’m always being denied help. This is no way to treat a volunteer. I am not ashamed to be a return volunteer, but I am ashamed on how we were all dumped into the DOL/OWCP. When I got out of the Peace Corps, I was not able to walk; it took the DOL/OWCP six years to admit I was injured in service — six years that caused scar tissue to form and made it impossible to be repaired. I started to fall without notice and was allowed $1.35 a day on food stamps. In December 2003 I was awarded a 7% disability. It is criminal the way a volunteer is treated. We gave you our lives and ended up in poverty for life.”

While Peace Corps volunteers knowingly and willingly agree to live at the poverty level during service, they do not agree to do so upon their return to the States, nor should they have to.

According to the DOL website, “The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) provides federal employees injured in the performance of duty with workers’ compensation benefits, which include wage-loss benefits for total or partial disability, monetary benefits for permanent loss of use of a schedule member, medical benefits, and vocational rehabilitation.”

However, not all RPCVs are eligible for FECA. As explained on the Peace Corps website, “As a returned Volunteer, you may be eligible for certain benefits under [FECA] if the illness or injury is related to your activities as a Volunteer, or is incurred during overseas service. FECA is administered by the [OWCP], [DOL]. OWCP, not the Peace Corps, decides whether you qualify for medical treatment and compensation under this Act.”

After requesting a comment from the Peace Corps on this situation, I received a response from the Director of the Office of Communications Maureen Knightly. While Knightly could not comment on specific volunteers and their cases due to privacy, she stipulated the following:

“The Peace Corps is committed to providing the best medical care and support to all volunteers throughout their service. Once volunteers complete their Peace Corps service, however, the agency does not have legal authority to provide them long-term medical care. Instead, all return volunteers are eligible for workers compensation, including medical care for service-related conditions and disability payments, through [FECA]… The Peace Corps provides on-going assistance to former volunteers in working with DOL. The Peace Corps is also working with the Government Accountability Office [GAO] to explore ways to improve the FECA process for former volunteers and it continues to work with the [DOL] to better coordinate FECA claims.”

National Peace Corps Association President Kevin Quigley also issued the following comment:

“We are hopeful that a GAO study that is underway will provide guidance to the Peace Corps and U.S. Labor Department that will ensure that Returned Peace Corps Volunteers seriously injured or ill during service receive the care they deserve. Just as our nation expects proper care and support for those serving in our military, we should expect no less for those who serve in the Peace Corps.”

It is the hope of Tongue and all RPCVs who continue to encounter red tape in dealing with their medical needs that change is coming, and soon. As Meghan Wolf says, “I wanted to ameliorate the ‘have-nots’ situations, not become one. The government likes good propaganda for its institutions — I wish it would look at individuals first instead of the organization, because that’s where it falls apart.”

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Committed to Support the Health of PCVs and RPCVs

By Peace Corps Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet

One of my favorite Peace Corps recruitment campaigns is anchored by the tagline ‘The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love.’ As an RPCV, I love it because it truly speaks to the entire Peace Corps experience. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer can be rewarding, but it is no easy task.

It’s this reason that motivates me to ensure that our Volunteers are supported as much as possible throughout their entire lifecycle as a Volunteer – all the way from invitee to RPCV. With a deep background in public health it’s important to me that the health concerns of our Volunteers are addressed and done so with compassion.  That’s why I am troubled by the health-related frustrations that members of the Peace Corps family have encountered during and post-service, ranging from concerns about anti-malarial medications administered during service, such as mefloquine, to post-service medical claims through the Federal Employee’s Compensation Act (FECA).

Due to these concerns, Peace Corps has recently changed its malaria prophylaxis protocols, and as a result, Mefloquine is no longer the first line drug used to prevent and treat malaria. Each Volunteer’s malaria prevention plan is developed in consultation with the country’s Peace Corps Medical Officer upon arrival in country. Volunteers are given a choice of daily or weekly tablets, and depending on their choice and the recommendations of their PCMO, a decision regarding their prevention plan is made.  As always, the prevention plan is subject to change if side effects develop.

For Peace Corps Volunteers who return from service with an illness or injury, they have to work through the FECA system. That system is administered by the Department of Labor (DOL), and the Peace Corps’ role in this process is limited. Only DOL has the authority to review and accept claims, and to authorize payments. However, the Peace Corps’s Post-Service Unit does help RPCVs to file their claims, collect the relevant Peace Corps health records and submit the necessary paperwork to DOL. We also make efforts to facilitate communication between RPCVs and DOL staff.

Unfortunately, this system has failed some RPCVs, and that is truly disheartening. That’s why I’m committed to working with our Post-Service Unit and DOL to try to improve the FECA process for returned Volunteers.

Recognizing the difficulties that some RPCVs face when they apply to the Department of Labor for FECA benefits, the Peace Corps has been negotiating with DOL for several years about changes we believe would improve the system. We are also working with the Government Accountability Office to explore ways to improve the FECA process for returned Volunteers. In addition, the Peace Corps is creating two positions in the Peace Corps Post-Service Unit to try to address problems from the Peace Corps end. We have also expanded the Case Manager position in the Post-Service Unit to include care coordination for some catastrophic illnesses or injuries.

I look forward to continuing our work with Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers, including Nancy Tongue and others, as we take steps to try to improve the process for returned volunteers seeking post-service care.

The Peace Corps takes the health and well-being of those who serve very seriously. I am committed to ensuring that our sick or injured Volunteers receive the help and support they deserve during and after Peace Corps service.


Member's Local News Article:
http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/44177

Peace Corps Deputy Director hires consultant:
The Deputy Director of Peace Corps has hired a consultant for the following and we are very pleased to have her support:

The  Deputy Director has asked that I spend my time to understand both the complexity and the magnitude of the situation our returned volunteers face when they return home with a Peace Corps related illness or injury and must seek help, first from our Peace Corps staff in Volunteer Services and then from the Department of Labor to deal with the Federal Employee's Compensation Act process. And, once we have a thorough grasp of the problem, to work with you and other interested parties to recommend steps that will simplify, streamline and facilitate this process for our volunteers and their families.

A bit about myself--I served in the first group of volunteers sent to Russia ('92-'94) in Vladivostok. I went on to work for the Peace Corps in a variety of capacities including Programming and Training Officer, Country Director and Country Director at Large in several African, Eastern European and Asian countries, as well as Acting Regional Director for Eastern Europe, Mediterranean and Asia. Since leaving full time work in 2004, I've served at various times as an Expert Consultant for the Peace Corps working on projects both overseas and at the Washington headquarters.

New Google group for inter-member dialogs:
We have a new google group to facilitate dialog amongst members. We welcome you to join this group so that we can share information between one another. You can use a pseudonym, if you like to protect your confidentiality and also set privacy settings.
You may join at the following address:
https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!forum/health-justice-for-peace-corps-volunteers
or:
http://bit.ly/KYrosZ
If you are unable to access this group just send us an email at: HealthJusticePeaceCorpsVols@gmail.com
and we will add you in.

Productive Discussions with Assistant Director of Peace Corps,
Carrie Hessler-Radelet:

Productive discussions with the Peace Corps have been initiated and we are helping the Assistant Director understand the issue we have confronted and are hopeful about positive intervention. She has expressed that she is committed to change but we need to continue to collect information from our group in order to best advise her. She would like as much information as possible from us.

National Peace Corps Association endorsement of our mission:

“As one of the goals of the National Peace Corps Association is to promote the vitality of the Peace Corps and the application of its values, as well as being an essential resource for and about the Peace Corps community, we applaud the formation of ‘Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers’ and their efforts to ensure that volunteers who are harmed by serious illness or injury stemming from their service receive appropriate care and support.”
  Kevin Quigley – NPCA President

Facebook support:
If you don't feel like adding a personal comment on our facebook page, please ask your friends to make a comment on your behalf so that we can have more people behind us. We understand the issues many have with confidentiality and personal photos. 

Postings:
If any of you wishes to post something, send it on to the email above.

June 8, 2012
We are looking for people to email us with specific changes we would like Peace Corps to implement so that we are better cared for.

At the bottom of this page is the current "Bill of Rights for Peace Corps Volunteers" from the Deputy Director of the Peace Corps. Does it need amending? Please email us with comments and proposals.

May 25, 2012

Initial phone discussion with Carrie Hessler-Radelet went very well. We have now begun an open dialog about our concerns and she is very willing to work with us. We are most encouraged.

May 24, 2012

Tentative date of phone "meeting" with our organizer and the Deputy Director of Peace Corps.

May 12, 2012
Name change from Abandoned by Peace Corps to: Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers goes into effect. New facebook location is:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Health-Justice-for-Peace-Corps-Volunteers/252575374823790

May 11, 2012
Strategy phone meeting with our attorney (who is a USDOL specialist and RPCV) about next steps.

May 10, 2012
Peace Corps Deputy Director, Carrie Hessler-Radelet is arranging phone consult with our group the week of May 23 to be followed up with personal meeting.


May 8, 2012
Our organization had a lengthy conference call with the National Peace Corps Association discussing our goals and strategies to reach those goals. We are feeling rather positive. But we are considering a name change. What do folks think about:
www.HealthJusticeForPeaceCorpsVolunteers.org?


Recent messages from folks:

Reading [the stories of someone else] made me tear up to know I'm not the only one feeling this way and dealing with the same madness. I've felt so alone during this whole process that just knowing there is anyone else out there gives me a little hope. Thanks again for the work you are doing.  I've honestly had no clue who to turn to or where to find help. Hopefully you doing this will make someone listen.
----------
I congratulate you on your efforts over the last 10 years for finally bringing this issue into focus. For all of us who were treated like "the forsaken" after serving our country in no way anyone else does, thank you.
--------
I'm so thankful that you are working so diligently to advocate on our behalf. I truly appreciate it and of there's anything I can to assist, please let me know.
--------
How wonderful to have some validation finally.
--------
[some of us are] survivors of a second trauma caused by Peace Corps
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May 3, 2012
Our founder is contacted by Peace Corps' Deputy Director, Carrie Hessler-Radelet with a desire to discuss issues.

May 2, 2012
Howard L. Graham, RCPV Costa Rica IV, and a pro bono lawyer that has practiced disability law for 39 years, has agreed to answer questions from RCPVs, at no charge, regarding denials, terminations, continuing compensation and medical care under the FEDERAL EMPLOYEES COMPENSATION ACT for returned RCPVs.  
 
He can also make referrals to legal workers that specialize in FECA matters around the country*. Howard has written a two volume, 1800 page, FECA Practice Guide for FECA attorneys, union reps and injured federal workers. It is published by WEST Pub. Group. This is a self help “how to” represent FECA claimants used by most  lawyers and labor unions  around  the country that represent FECA claimants. Howard will not represent individual RCPVs on FECA claims.
 
Send  questions regarding the Federal disability claim process to GrahamHL1@aol.com. There is no monetary charge for the response to your email. * Referral lawyers and RCPVs must make their own financial arrangements for legal assistance.

May 1, 2012
Howard Graham (Attorney at Law, retired and former RPCV) published a book on FECA/USDOL. He met with the GAO by phone and sent them voluminous materials illustrating the many pitfalls within the system for RPCVs trying to file a medical claim. Thank you Howard!

April 30, 2012
We "met" by conference call with the GAO investigators, and it was most productive. They are trying to focus on the issues most relevant to the health of Peace Corps Volunteers. Specifically, they are examining the impediments to receiving proper care, the obstacles to filing claims with the USDOL and the places in which there is lack of communication between the Peace Corps and the USDOL. The project will be running until Nov. 2012 so it is important that they understand all the issues. I am hoping they they will be contacting many other RPCVs with an array of issues.

April 29, 2012
"Great work. Tell  the investigators I would love to talk to them and tell all of your colleagues that the key to this problem  is training, training training and more training of PC staff in country and in DC."

Howard L. Graham
Attorney at Law

April 27, 2012
Kevin Quigley, president of the NPCA wrote us the following: "
We very much look forward to continuing to work together to make long overdue progress on this issue."

April 25, 2012
A member of our group met personally with Tony Barclay, relatively new board chair of the National Peace Corps Association. We met for about two hours and it was a most validating experience as it was the first time we have felt "heard" by someone in a position to actually promote change. We laid out the issues, brainstormed about ideas and strategies and he now has the NPCA on board with us. We are very optimistic.

On April 23 we are "meeting" by phone with the folks who are doing the government accountability investigation of the health services provided by both the Peace Corps and the USDOL at the request of Congress to improve health care for returned Peace Corps Volunteers. On April 25 one of our team is meeting in person with the new Director of the Board of the NPCA. If you have any issues to address please email them to us at our confidential email: abandonedbypeacecorps@gmail.com

You can also post comments on our facebook page at:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Abandoned-By-Peace-Corps/252575374823790

PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS' HEALTH BILL OF RIGHTS:

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT:

§      To receive all necessary medical care in the event of an illness or injury including medical evacuation if needed.

§      To be treated with respect, consideration and dignity regardless of your race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, marital status, parental status, political affiliation or your participation in any authorized complaint procedure.

§      To privacy, security, and medical confiden­tiality for your health information and records.

§      To privacy during the physical exam.  You will be offered a chaperone and a gown or drape for all exams that require exposing all or part of your body.

§      To be informed about the diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of an illness or injury.

§      To be informed about the credentials and qualifications of your health care providers.

§      To be informed about the scope and availability of healthcare services in your country.

§      To receive individual health information regarding personal wellness and illness.

§      To receive health education/training on the prevention of illness and injury specific to your country.

§      To receive immunizations and malaria prophylaxis according to Peace Corps protocols.

§      To refuse all or part of your care subject to the conditions imposed by law and Peace Corps policy.

§      To be informed about your post-service benefits, including the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) program and post-service health insurance.

§      To bring a complaint or concern regarding your health care services to the attention of the appropriate Peace Corps officials.                              

YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES INCLUDE:

§      Treat all staff with respect, dignity and consideration.

§      Reporting all significant health problems to the PCMO.

§      Providing complete information to the PCMO about your past medical history and current health problems to allow proper evaluation and treatment.

§      Except in an emergency, obtaining PCMO authorization prior to receiving any medical or dental care.

§      Complying with all medical policies and prac­tices of the Volunteer Health Program. For example, you must:

·          Take disease prevention medication as prescribed;

·          Follow all prescribed therapies and other medical recommendations carefully;

·          Not wear contact lenses;

·          Engage in responsible and safe sex if you choose to be sexually active;

·          Keep up to date on your immunizations;

·          Drink alcohol only moderately, if at all, and do not use illegal drugs;

·          Sleep with a mosquito net in malarious areas;

·          Drink safe water and buy and prepare food carefully;

·          Swim only in places that are unquestionably safe.

§      Doing all within your power to assure your own well-being and safety. For example, you must:

·          Write a detailed emergency plan for your site;

·          Wear a seat belt, if available, when riding in a vehicle;

·          Wear a helmet when on a bicycle or motorcycle;

·          Avoid all dangerous areas, especially at dusk and at night;

·          Refrain from riding on or operating a two wheeled motorized vehicle unless it is allowed by your Host County.


 



 

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