One mother’s story of how the Peace Corps failed her daughter

This is a long, heartbreaking and true story of the experiences of a PCV who served in Malawi, became ill overseas as a Volunteer, and had the Peace Corps turn their back on her plight while overseas and when she was home again. Why the Peace Corps didn’t help Meghan Wolf receive medical care is the fault of the Peace Corps Staff and the Peace Corps legislation. Why the legislation hasn’t been changed is the fault of the agency, the US Department of Labor (the agency responsible for managing medical claims and loss of wages for Peace Corps service-related health issues) and Congress, which sets the budget and determines laws governing the care PCVs and RPCVs.  RPCVs, the NPCA, and those who support the Peace Corps are also at fault for not having successful argued all these years to have the laws changed so sick and injured RPCVs are properly cared for after their years of service. Today, the NPCA is working for reform, but we have to help those RPCVs who are too sick to work earn more than the ~$22,000 they currently receive from the government. Here is why…..
 
Cynthia Wolf’s story is just one of many sad tales of the after-life of the Peace Corps experience. If you want to help, and I trust you will after reading Cynthia Wolf’s story, then contact Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers, an NPCA Affiliate group that Nancy Tongue, another RPCV, who has been fighting for improved post service care for RPCVS for three decades formally organized, along with others. Please make your Senators and Congresspeople aware of these injustices. If you are or have experienced health issues as a result of your service or wish to volunteer to help improve the system, please email HJPCV at: healthjusticepeacecorpsvols@gmail.com and check their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Health-Justice-for-Peace-Corps-Volunteers-252575374823790/?fref=ts

 

pc health

I, Cynthia Wolf, am the mother of Meghan Wolf, RPCV who served in Malawi, Africa from May 2007 to June 2008.  Following is my rendition of Meghan’s experience in the Peace Corp and her eventual release from service secondary to the health issues she faced while in Malawi that started in April of 2008.

Meghan graduated from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida in December of 2006 with degrees in Philosophy and International Studies with a variety of minors including Chemistry and French. She also studied abroad in Seoul, South Korea where her primary study was North Korean Human Rights. In December of 2006 she applied to serve in the United States Peace Corps. She did not share this information with us until after she came home following graduation.

After a long and rigorous application process, Meghan was accepted into the Peace Corps with full medical clearance to work abroad doing health development work in the spring of 2007. Joining the Peace Corp was not Meghan’s life long dream, but it was her dream to serve in Africa in a health capacity, and she saw this as being the best way to begin. Her goal was to serve her twenty-seven months of service in order to gain true ground experience, and then afterward to pursue her Masters and Doctorate degrees in Human Rights. Needless to say we were proud of her decision, but her father had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that something was going to happen. I had my concerns, but could not tell her not to follow her dream, and so as we watched her walk down the tarmac at the airport on May 25, 2007.  Our 21-year-old daughter was off to pursue her dream of service to others.

She began in-country training in Malawi May 31, 2007 as a health Volunteer, and was officially sworn in after successful completion of training July 25, 2007. She was assigned the post of Muloza Health Center in the village of Maliera in Mulange District. There she worked closely with community leaders to address health issues ranging from HIV/AIDS to diarrheal disease prevention while living as an equal in the rural community where there was limited access to clean water and no access to electricity.

wolf-megan

Meghan Wolf

Meghan served with great determination and optimism with the hope that making continual small changes, the community could progress to greater prosperity and most importantly, ameliorated health through their own hard work, dedication, and determination. She made weekly trips to report to the District Hospital Officer at the district hospital in Mulanje to discuss problems and projects underway in her village and surrounding area and remained committed to staying at her assigned post to work, thus giving up opportunities to use allotted vacation time for R&R. She made frequent 20 km. biking trips on dirt roads to teach at schools and educate the youth on infectious diseases, build student self confidence, and develop leaders among the youth. Meghan asked the tough questions, and investigated cultural practices that included the rape of young adolescent girls.

Meghan mentored after-school groups, traveled with medical personnel to outreach clinics, and advised and aided a community committee invested in making peanut butter as an income generating activity and a way to combat child malnutrition whilst continuing to develop her proficiency in the local language, Chichewa, and understanding cultural practices. She acted as a representative of the United Sates demonstrating its range of individuals in its population with the commitment to the well-being of all people and the desire to help others realize their potential. As a Peace Corps Volunteer one works 24/7 because one is always under scrutiny of the community and must demonstrate poise and work ethic at all times. In exchange the community protects you and welcomes you as one of their own.

Unfortunately, after a year of service Meghan’s experience was curtailed beginning with severe dehydration from projectile vomiting and diarrhea in mid-April of 2008. It is believed that she contracted some type of virus during a trip to Blantyre for a meeting. Upon the night of her return to her village from the city her symptoms began with projectile vomiting, fever, diarrhea and eventual loss of bowel control. She requested to leave her site to receive medical care at a hospital because she knew she would eventually die of dehydration, but the Peace Corps Medical Officer on duty denied her request. It is common for Peace Corps Volunteers to suffer from a variety of gastrointestinal problems during service, so her condition was not at all alarming to the doctors in country. Meghan was continually told, whenever she contacted the PC Doctor in Lilongwe to inform him that she was not improving and was becoming increasingly weaker, to just keep taking her salt tablets to stay hydrated.

Meghan’s condition continued to deteriorate and she was in a physical state whereas verbal communication was difficult and unclear, thus not allowing her to be her own advocate in an effort to persuade the physicians something more had to be done than swishing salt solution in her mouth. There was a point when I awoke on a Saturday morning with a feeling that I needed to contact Meghan right at that moment in time. We knew she had not been feeling well, but we had no idea about her current illness, so I got on our home computer and via Skype called Meghan’s personal cell phone she purchased so that she could receive our calls, and she could call and send text messages to the Peace Corps in-country.  Much to my surprise a man answered the phone who spoke broken English. He identified himself as one of the men from the village and he told me Meghan was very ill and several people from the village were watching over her as they were not sure she was going to live. I asked if I could talk to Meghan and he passed the phone to her. Her voice was so weak I could not understand her. I told my daughter to hang on and that I would do whatever I could to get her the help that she needed.

I then called the only number we had for the Peace Corp and that was the number given to families to call in the event of a death in the family. I called that number and pleaded with the woman who answered the phone to please call the PC Provider in the States. She said she was not supposed to call the PC Doctor, I again pleaded with her to please help us. I informed her that there were people of her village in her mud hut watching over her because they were afraid she was going to die. After much pleading by me, she agreed to make the call and told me that she could not make any guarantees that the doctor would return my call because it was not protocol. Twenty minutes later our phone rang and the Peace Corp doctor in Washington was on the phone. After I explained what was going on with our daughter he said he would contact the PC Provider in Lilongwe, and he would call me back. He did call us back and informed us that the PC Provider told him Meghan was in the hospital in Blantyre. I told the doctor that he was a bold faced liar; that my daughter was in her mud hut in her village. Had I not called my daughter and had I not called the PC Provider in Washington D.C. our daughter would have died.

I immediately called Meghan back to tell her that she needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Because she was so weak she instructed the people from her village how to make arrangements for her transportation to a hospital in Blantyre. She gave them money to find someone to take her by bike to the main road and then asked them to find a person with a motor vehicle to take her to Blantyre from the tarmac.  She had to pay the driver half of her monthly stipend just to get to Blantyre. Peace Corps never attempted to make any transportation arrangements for her. This was the beginning of our daughter’s life-long illness.

Meghan was transported three times into either Blantyre or Lilongwe for medical attention. She was admitted twice at Adventist Hospital in Blantyre for dehydration and vomiting. She was put on a cocktail of different antibiotics, as this is protocol in the Third World in an attempt to be “proactive” regardless of whether or not one has a bacterial infection. It is believed better to be safe than sorry. No bacterial infection was found, nor were any other diseases that were tested for. She had cycles of improvement that lasted at most a week and sometimes only a day or two. After her third time into the city with the same symptoms it was decided it was in her best interest to be medically evacuated to Johannesburg, South Africa for further evaluation. This was only a couple of weeks before her mid-service training, an event that she had worked hard to reach, and due to her departure would consequently miss.

Upon arrival in Johannesburg Meghan was taken to Kloof Medi Clinic by a Peace Corps driver for hospital admittance in order to have an upper endoscopy and colonoscopy preformed the next day. She had no contact with any other Peace Corps staff until two days following her arrival. Due to her already dehydrated state and bowel preparation for the procedures, the physician was not able to find any veins. She thus underwent both the upper endoscopy and colonoscopy fully awake, one after the other. It was a horrific experience.

Upon arrival at the Regional Peace Corps office the Peace Corps doctor was not even aware that a colonoscopy was going to be preformed when Meghan notified her of the events that had transpired. It took several days for Meghan to recover from the pain induced by the trauma. Before any physical evaluation was done by the Peace Corp MD, or any medical reports were reviewed, and after only a short conversation with Meghan, the Peace Corps doctor had the opinion that Meghan was suffering from irritable bowel syndrome caused by stress. She therefore immediately scheduled an appointment with a psychologist for evaluation.

Based upon the psychologist’s opinion that her symptoms may be related to stress and the opinion of the GI doctor concurring with that opinion (under the influence of seeing in her medical chart that she had chronic depression), she was labeled as having irritable bowel syndrome and not deemed fit enough to return to Malawi.

The Peace Corps would not allow Meghan to return to Malawi to collect her personal belongings, nor was she permitted to return to notify her village and others she had been working with. Three months after her return to the United States Meghan received a letter from her students, who had comprised an after school drama group she created, asking if they had done something wrong because why else would she leave? No one had notified the school of her departure or of the circumstances. Hence, many whom she had worked with and tried to empower felt abandoned. The Peace Corp failed to adequately communicate with the community she had worked with for a year, and which had come to depend on her presence of the circumstances of her sudden departure. This put both Meghan and the Peace Corps as an organization in bad light.

Meghan returned to her permanent residence in Nashotah, Wisconsin on June 8. 2008, to be cared for by her father and myself. Because I worked at the Medical College of Wisconsin I was able to secure appointments for her to be examined by specialists. The next day she was seen at the Medical College of Wisconsin by a gastrointestinal specialist, Dr. Venkatesan, for diagnostic evaluation. The following was her schedule for evaluation since returning to the United States.

Monday, June 9, 2008: GI Specialist: ordered CT scans, small bowel study, MRI and lab work; prescribed zofran (ondanestron) for nausea.

Tuesday, June 17: CT scans and MRI – all reports came back clear and normal.

Monday, June 23: GYN – polycystic ovarian syndrome – recommended use of birth control.

Wednesday, June 25: small bowel study – no abnormalities, clear.

Wednesday, July 9: ID [Infectious Diseases] clinic – ordered numerous blood and stool lab tests – all lab tests came back clear.

Wednesday, July 16: GI Specialist: possible diagnosis of Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome.

Monday, July 28 – Psychiatrist IBS [irritable bowel syndrome] referral – the psychiatrist could make no clinical diagnosis and did not mention anxiety or depression making any significant contribution to her new condition.

Monday, July 30: ER for fainting spells – given IV fluids.

Monday, August 4: colonoscopy – no abnormalities, clear.

Friday, August 8: ER – tremors and pain; referred to neurology.

Monday–Wednesday, August 11–13: Admitted to internal medicine; seen by infectious disease, internal medicine, GI and neurology: recommended to have autonomic testing completed.

Friday, August 22: autonomic testing – positive results for POTS2 [postural tachycardia] syndrome and small fiber neuropathy.

Wednesday, August 27: GI Dr. Venketasan: major problem with tremors; told to continue with zofran and sleeping aid.

Saturday, August 30: In contact with the Department of Labor, sp. Cindy Marshall 216-357-5387. A medical report was due for FECA claim.

Wednesday, September 10: Neuropsychology testing: no organic neurological problem detected.

Wednesday, September 17: Neurology Dr. Hung, specialist in motor movement, believed tremors related to body’s response to pain, prescribed a beta blocker.

Tuesday, September 23: Neurology Dr. Pandya and Dr. Barboi, recommended to maintain taking beta blocker, given a definitive diagnosis of Autonomic Dysfunction (Dysautonomia).

Friday, October 10: GI Dr. Venketasan – prescribed supplements, not confirmed nor ruled out diagnosis of cyclic vomiting syndrome, but recognized that many symptoms of CVS are present.

Friday, November 14: Dr. Barboi, Neurology – prescribed pyridostigmine and clonazepam and lab tests in an attempt to further alleviate symptoms. It was at this visit that Dr. Barboi (whose Clinical Specialty is treating patients diagnosed with Autonomic Dysautonomia) sat down with Meghan, her father and myself and informed us of the real realities of this disorder. He told us that in all likelihood Meghan contracted not a bacterial infection while in Malawi, but a virus that attacked and destroyed her Autonomic Nervous System. He informed Meghan that sometimes patients conditions will improve within two years to a point where the patient can lead a productive life. However, if after that two year period things have not improved then her current state of health will be her life. He was very compassionate and said there was always reason to have hope.

Tuesday, December 16: Neurology Dr. Barboi — prescribed marinol sometimes given to AIDS and cancer patients as a last resort to minimize nausea and vomiting. Massage therapy and acupuncture were also strongly recommended for pain control and nausea. Meghan tried these recommendations, but they made her symptoms worse.

Wednesday, January 7 2009: GI Dr. Venkatesan: Still confused as to why her condition has not improved, the doctor made a referral to a psychologist for further evaluation though admitted that yes, Meghan does indeed have autonomic dysfunction as well as possibly other disorders such as cyclic vomiting syndrome.

Throughout this time of evaluation, testing, and now trial-and-error treatment Meghan maintains daily and erratic bouts of retching, nausea, vomiting, constipation/diarrhea, severe stomach pain, tremors, sweats, chills, whole body aching, neck and head pain, dizziness (resulting in falling, and fainting), motion sickness, impaired vision, loss of concentration, diminished short-term memory, fatigue, pallor, and overall malaise. The inconsistency of the presence of these symptoms makes it unpredictable as to when Meghan will feel somewhat well or unwell, though 90% of the time it is the latter. Thus planning or engaging in any activity for more than a few hours became impossible to plan for. At times Meghan is able to engage in some activities of daily living during indefinite and very infrequent hiatuses of her varying symptoms, though it seems the adrenaline she uses to get through a time of activity is always followed by days of virtual incapacity where she literally is in bed in excess of 16–18 hours per day. Often times I have had to help Meghan shower, get dressed, walk up stairs, make her meals, etc. To this day Meghan still needs assistance with normal activities of daily living depending on what symptoms she is having.

Having lost her independence and the control over her own body after taking superlative care of it preceding her current health condition left all of us so very sad. My husband and I realized that the daughter who left for Malawi was not the daughter who returned home. Meghan’s body is continually at war with itself and she is the casualty of it. There has not been a single day since the onset of her illness in April 2008 when she has not suffered from at least two or more of the symptoms of Autonomic Dysautonomia for at least half the day if not more.

Meghan viewed the Peace Corps as her employer, and respected it as such and carried out her duties to the best of her ability. It seems, however, when it was discovered that she could no longer be of use she was ousted with compromised health and returned home unemployed, indignant, and with referrals to be examined but not treated. Meghan has continually struggled with the three-tiered medical insurance system Peace Corps has: PC-121 for pre-approved Peace Corps evaluation with an expiration date of 6 months after close of service, Corps Care (insurance she pays a $158 premium for monthly) to be used for only non-Peace Corps related medical issues, and FECA (Federal Employee’s Compensation Act) that will cover Peace Corps related medical problems’ treatment, but only after a definitive diagnosis is established and 90 days of review has passed. Each phone call placed to the Peace Corps was only answered half the time, making it extremely difficult to get proper authorization for doctors appointments, medical tests, and lab work. This is not to mention the added headache from dealing with the absolute rudeness and extreme nastiness of the federal government workers assigned to help Peace Corp workers navigate a broken system.

For weeks after Meghan arrived home she went without any medication because she had no way of paying out of pocket for prescriptions that cost over $400 each, which purportedly she was not allowed to use her Corps Care insurance for coverage as all medications were related to her service, and Corps Care covers only non-Peace Corps related medical expenses. After speaking to another individual at Peace Corps she was told she may use her Corps Care insurance as a bridge until her FECA claim was processed. The co-pay was still $20–$40 per prescription, and she was on at any given time eleven to fourteen different medications per day.

All emergency visits and her admittance to the hospital were not covered by Peace Corps as they are categorized under “treatment,” so have yet to be paid as she does not have the capital for thousands of dollars in medical bills while she is paying for student loans, prescriptions, and medical insurance with no income as an invalid.

Meghan is sincerely grateful for all she has in her life, but she struggles every single day to maintain hope that maybe, just maybe she will be able to contribute to society as she has always dreamed. She joined the Peace Corps leaving behind family, a secure job, and a life in the First World for the opportunity to fulfill her dream of making a difference in the lives of people who need it the most. She still to this day has that dream, and she was grateful to the Peace Corps for giving her the short opportunity to do the work she accomplished while in Malawi, but as her mother, I do not believe she would have accepted the invitation to join the Peace Corps knowing that giving a year of life to volunteerism would impair her physically for the rest of her life and most importantly of all, that she would not be granted support from the organization she served on behalf of the United States of America.

Meghan was hoping beyond hope that her condition would stabilize and improve so that she could go on with her education in Human Rights to more fully serve her community, her country, and the world. But when Meghan passed the two year mark of hoping for improvement in her condition, the improvement never occurred. Dr. Barboi, her neurologist, then sat down with Meghan, her father and myself and informed us that the reality was that Meghan’s condition had not improved to the point it should have if she were going to make a more complete recovery. She has been told that pregnancy could be risky as it could further negatively affect her dysautonomia and therefore it is not advised. She also has been told that she cannot travel to impoverished places outside of the United States because she needs to be close to medical care, and that because the symptoms of her disorder are so pronounced she, in all likelihood will never be able to work. Her dreams and her life have been shattered.

Meghan receives Workman’s Compensation which puts her just barely above poverty level and thus makes her ineligible for any low income assistance. She has used her Workman’s Compensation stipend to pay off her student loans.

It will be eight years this June since Meghan returned home. Her condition has not improved. She is disabled. We as her parents are now struggling to plan for her financial future hoping that we will be able to safeguard her financial future after we are gone. Her father continues to struggle daily with what has happened to Meghan and the lack of support from the Peace Corps.

We encourage Meghan to have continued hope, to try and re-purpose her dreams, and then in the quiet of the night I weep for the daughter who lost her dreams.

Thank you for taking the time to read Meghan’s story,

Cynthia Wolf

Places Remembered

What was it about the Peace Corps? About Ethiopia,
That has meant so much in our lives? 
The answer is, I believe, that once a long time ago,
when we were young and believed we could make a difference, 
we flew to the Horn of Africa and touched this world firsthand,
touched it where it burns,
and we have never healed.

John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962-64)

 

24 Comments

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  • I’d like to hear from the Peace Corp about this. Someone in authority and not some mealy-mouthed flack. But this is outrageous. Shame on the Peace Corps. I’ve long maintained that the best thing about the Peace Corps are the volunteers. The worst thing about the Peace Corps are the staff and bureaucrats in Washington who seem to care only about their jobs, padding their resumes, and little about the well-being of the volunteers.

  • Gerry,

    The Office of the Inspector General issued its Follow Up Report on Issues involved with Health Care. in March of 2016. This report indeed is from someone in authority and it also has comments from the Director of the Peace Corps. Sadly, the initial analysis was done after the death of a Volunteer in Morocco
    in 2009. I will try and give you the link: http://files.peacecorps.gov/multimedia/pdf/policies/Final_Report_Follow_Up_Evaluation_of_Issues_in_2010_PC_Morocco_Assessment_of_Medical_Care.pdf

    You may have to copy and paste it in the URL box.

  • How unbelievably awful. I am thankful every single day that the physical ailments I left peace corps with were not life altering. At least not in the way that many volunteers experience like Meghan. It’s such a disgrace that out country sends bright young capable volunteers to the developing world only to have them often times return with horrible medical problem, or sometimes not at all. Unfortunately I cannot say that much has changed since Meghan’s medical separation. I finished my service in 2015 and am still waiting for major shoulder surger due to an injury in the peace corps. The peace corps office has been very helpful… And by helpful I mean they have suggested I pay out of picks for a $30,000-45,000 surgery. And the department of labor is a black hole of call transfers. I can only hope that things begin to change because the system is absolutely broken

  • Oh my god . . . what a horrific story. I sure hope things have improved over the last 10 years since my son has started his service in Malawi. I want to tell him that he needs to follow his gut if he doesn’t feel well and try not to let it get to the point it is so bad. They have to consider the distance to medical help and towns from their site. If PC does not attend to our PCV’s, I’ll jump on a plane and get him myself. PC would not want to deal with me!!! Sorry for the ranting but this is so terrible. Wishing all the best that Meghan will recover!!! Praying for her and her family.

    • nope, no improvement in the past 10 years. They still like to tell you its a psych issue and abandon you to die.

  • I am so sad to hear of all of your suffering!!!
    I COS’d 2012 and found all that you did with regards to the quagmire of services and lack thereof for RPCV’s!
    I am part of the group PC Response and we are working on change…
    I am disabled because of my PC work and living on workman’s comp as well.
    Prayers for your daughter and your whole family.

  • This story is so heartbreaking to read and I’ve read it before. Better medical care in service and better medical care post service needs to be a priority. I know of others who have life altering injuries and illnesses from improper treatment during their Peace Corps service or post service. My son died in 2013 from an illness that was easily treatable while he was at in service training and under the care of a Peace Corps medical officer. It’s a disgrace that Meghan didn’t get the care she needed. It’s a disgrace to the Peace Corps that parents have to share such intimate details of their loved ones illness in the hope to bring change. Peace Corps Volunteers are the most valuable asset to the Peace Corps. They deserve to be treated as such.

  • Nancy Tongue of Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers emailed this:

    “We have been working with staffers of Ted Poe who co-authored the Kate Puzey bill. We would appreciate it if all of you would write to tell your stories or to ask for more help for PCVs in the field and upon return.

    Please send to: Luke Murray Luke.Murry@mail.house.gov
    and Blair Bjellos Blair.Bjellos@mail.house.gov

    Part of the problem is that Volunteers are just that, Volunteers private citizens doing public service.
    Government agencies are not set up to deal with the unique status of the Peace Corps Volunteer.
    Legislation is needed. Representative Poe is a real advocate for Peace Corps Volunteers. Please email his staffers with your concerns and support. That way, legislation can be drafted and with any luck passed to begin to address these problems.

    • Thank you for his information. I have a daughter in Ghana. She COSs this summer and we will certainly follow up with this contact. She has had malaria and also other stomach conditions that are common there. I have made contacts with Washington and Ghana offices over her service. Also our local congressman. It is certainly a challenge. Glad to work together for change.

    • OMG I am so very scared for my 24 year old daughter who is leaving for Zambia for 27 months in June. I am so excited for her to fulfill her fabulous dreams of helping the people who truly need help but to loose her health in the process is not a price to pay. She is only a child with a heart of gold and a mind that is open to the world for information. I do not want her to go if she is not protected in every possible way. This is absurd to think think this organization has been around for so very long and it is so very difficult to qualify for the program but you are not taken care of if something happens to you while you are volunteering for the Peace Corp!!!! What a travesty. A very very concerned Mom

  • Why has the public not been given notification of the Peace Corps failure in taking care of its injured or ill Volunteers. This is a terrible failure on the part of the Peace Corps Administration and the Dept, of Labor.The military of our country takes care of the injured and ill soldiers,yet we cannot take care of the Peace Corps Volunteers problems. This is a very serious issue that has not been addressed of the Peace Corps Administration. I ask the question why has this problem not been taken care of. Unfortunately there has to be a money problem here. What kind of Government do we have in US when they do not take care of its own people. What the Peace Corps needs is to follow the military guidlines for assistance for its Volunteers. It is a shame the Peace Corps does not take a public stand and notify the public of these horrible examples of returning Peace Corps Volunteers. I call it Politics something is very wrong here and it must be addressed

  • I was a Peace Corp Volunteer and also worked at Peace Corps Headquarters for 3 years. In my opinion, I think the major problem with Peace Corps is that everyone at Headquarters is on a 2.5-5 year term limit. Because of this, there is a GREAT deal of turnover. Just imagine how many mistakes can be made when almost all the employees in the entire agency haven’t worked there over 5 years. It was a very strange experience for me. Why in the world they keep this rule is beyond me. There is no institutional memory. A person times out and the new person coming in to replace them has to start all over. It’s no wonder that things slip through the cracks or phone calls are never returned. Especially, for an issue like this family has been going through over many years. The people they initially were dealing with are long gone. There are also more political appointees at Peace Corps Headquarters than any other agency in the government. It is where people are sent to start their government career. People without any experience whatsoever with Peace Corps or in many cases, anything international are running the departments. It really is a wonder that the agency has been able to manage over the past 50 years with such a revolving door in their Washington office.

    • Zack,

      I think you are absolutely right about gaps in service. The Office of the Inspector General for the Peace Corps has addresses this problems and others.

  • Please contact Congressperson Ted Poe’s office to let them know your personal stories. His staffers are: Good Morning:

    The contact e-mail information for the staffers, Luke Murry and Blair Bjellos, are luke.murry@mail.house.gov and blair.bjellos@mail.house.gov.

    Disability income MUST be increased to a higher level, better post service care much be overseen by Peace Corps or we need a complete overhaul of the system.

    Primarily the American public must know of this travesty so that we can be heard.

  • This is so tragic. I must admit I am shocked as I had a very different experience. I was a PCV in the Pacific and 18 months into my service had a number of neurological symptoms: blurry vision, tremors, unsteadiness. As I also had suffered from dysentery, it was initially assumed that that was the problem. When the dysentery improved but not my neurological symptoms, I was medevaced, first to Guam and then to Washington, DC. I was seen at GW Hospital and finally the Clinic Center of the NIH where I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

    My medical treatment in PC and during the diagnosis stage was excellent. After I was diagnosed, I was on my own as the Department of Labor NEVER accepts a diagnosis of MS as being service or employment related. I eventually got insurance through Massachusetts Medicaid and then the ACA. This was a nightmare but I don’t blame Peace Corps but the US healthcare system.

    While I was in Washington, I met many of PCVs there receiving medical care. Most were well looked after. I’m sorry this wasn’t the case here but reforming the Federal Employees Compensation Act is a major undertaking. With the Republicans blocking everything, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

  • I am so sorry you and your daughter have been put through this. I can relate; my daughter is a RPCV and it has been a battle royale to have both workers comp and the PC’s insurance provider, Seven Corners, pay and follow through with their obligation. I tried to let my daughter handle things on her own but when that didn’t work I contacted my Senators, Congressmen, Maria Shriver, the Director of the Peace Corps (Carrie…) and local troubleshooters on various news stations. Thankfully, contacting the Director (numerous times) proved fruitful as her representative FINALLY saw things through after TWO YEARS of requesting funds be reimbursed. A shout out to one of our congressmen as his staff bird dogged this situation with us, too. Can’t tell you how many times claims were submitted in duplicate, triplicate and more only to have them “lost”. We were the squeaky wheel and got financial action. However, this does not even begin to address the fact that our daughter will have health issues for the rest of her life, uncompensated. As I said in my letter to these various entities, we expected her to live an impoverished lifestyle and experience some hardships, but the health issues we were not ready for. She lived through an awful bout of Dengue that lasted ten days without medical assistance as it was over seven hours away; Zika scares the hell out of me and I am thankful she is no longer in the part of the world where this is about to explode. Did I mention she came back with TB? The medication she was given and the side effects it caused her would have brought grown men to their knees. And we got silence, lack of compassion and rudeness just as you did. Pissed off doesn’t begin to describe my emotions with regards to this entire experience. You and your daughter are in my prayers.

  • My sympathy for your daughter. As an RPCV myself (extended service, in fact), I’d maintain what others say here: the Volunteers are good; the agency itself has massive problems.

    Peace Corps says safety and security are its big concerns, but where were they when I was raped? Where were they when Americans were following me and threatening my life? (I had evidence of illegal collaboration between the embassy and Peace Corps).

    It’s a shame that Peace Corps isn’t the ideal we’d like it to be. It’s awful how they abandoned your daughter. Is there solace from knowing how run-of-the-mill her experience is, or does that knowledge make it worse?

    • There is legislation before Congress that will address some of the health problems that serving Volunteers and RPCVs face. I am so sorry for what happened to you. The Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 was supposed to establish standards and support to protect serving Volunteers and to give adequate help if one were assaulted. Are you familiar with the law. How did it help you or did the crime happen befoe that law?

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