[Nancy Tongue (Chile 1980-82) emailed the following statement to FairWarning about the article on the US Department of Labor and medical assistance to RPCV. Nancy started Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteer.
You can read about it at: http://www.healthjusticeforpeacecorpsvolunteers.org/
This is their mission statement:
To ensure that Peace Corps Volunteers who become sick and injured due to their overseas service obtain the support and benefits to which they are legally entitled.
To obtain as many stories as we can from Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to better understand the nature of their struggles so that we can bring their needs to public light.
To constructively use these stories to approach media sources and to pressure the government to make necessary positive changes.
To lobby for and support other Peace Corps volunteers with integrity, commitment and compassion.
This is Nancy’s statement to Fair Warning on their article:
Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers Founder, Nancy Tongue, states that while it is tragic that it has taken decades and the creation of a formal group to bring about improvements, she is pleased that since the creation of this group, Peace Corps’ Acting Director (Carrie Hessler-Radelet) has mobilized to create new positions for staff within the agency to offer support for those who have become sick or injured as a result of service. Nancy says “She promptly hired a consultant, Carol Chappell to intervene. And Carrie came to my home to learn about the magnitude of the health issues many of us have suffered, poring through and even photographing my many filing cabinets filled with documents pertaining to the Peace Corps Post Service Unit and the USDOL and my personal claim. Carol personally worked for months to obtain coverage for a necessary medical procedure that had been denied by the USDOL, and succeeded.
While the recent GAO investigation and resulting report are a welcome beginning to examining long-standing problems within both the USDOL and Peace Corps’ handling of healthcare for volunteers, it fails to provide significant insight into the issues or make many recommendations beyond what was already known.”
We feel changes in legislation are also needed in the following areas to:
· Place an expert with knowledge of Peace Corps job service and health issues within the USDOL to broker our claims, since the paperwork doesn’t reflect our unique types of health issues or job responsibilities
· Create a health insurance plan, as other Federal employees have when they become sick/injured on a job. When volunteers return home sick/injured some become uninsurable due to their “pre-existing illness” from their Peace Corps service.” Because we are deemed “volunteers” and not “employees,” we are not grated the same privileges that other employees are granted.
· Increase the “value” of Peace Corps Volunteers to a level greater than a GS-7, step 1 so that when they are unable to work, due to illness/injury, their disability is not fixed at a level that keeps them in poverty in America
Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers remains hopeful that the concerns of the Acting Director and newly hired staff at Peace Corps will continue to advocate for our needs and that legislation can be enacted to make positive changes permanent, especially within the USDOL. The general public knows little of the suffering many have endured because of service-related health issues since the founding of the Peace Corps fifty one years ago. Fortunately, we now have some advocates at Peace Corps who truly seem to understand the magnitude of the issues.