A PCV Harmed For Life By Her Tour (Malaysia)


We tend to praise and take pleasure in the successes of RPCVs, recognizing their achievement and credit their Peace Corps service, taking, I’m sure, reflected glory in their success, thinking to ourselves, “Well, I was in the Peace Corps, too!”
But what about the thousands who came away from their two years (or less) with permanent illnesses and because of government bureaucratic screw-ups and limitations were unable to get medical or psychological help?
We all know of someone. In fact, we all know of more than one RPCV in our group who has had medical and emotional problems because of their Peace Corps service. There are few stories, however, that are more tragic than what happened to Nancy Flanigan in Malaysia. A victim of a violent raped while in-country.
Since the early ’60s she has spent decades trying to heal, not knowing until very late in her life that there was some help available. The  Peace Corps had no idea what to do about her (of course) and she filed for a US Department of Labor Claim for inability to work and for medical care once she heard that options existed. After much work and extensive documentation and intervention by Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers, her claim has now been formally denied. Thank you, Labor Department.
The NPCA has been reaching out to connect her with RPCVs so that she will be less isolated where she lives near Baltimore. Over a year ago Nancy, and other RPCVs with medical issues were interviewed by CBS Morning News. That report is below. I have also added a link to a recent article about Nancy that you can click on. When you enlarge the type you can read the whole sad story of what happened to Nancy during her Peace Corps tour and in the rest of her life. — JC

December 14, 2015, 7:43 AM
Ex-volunteers accuse Peace Corps of health care neglect

The Peace Corps says 91 percent of volunteers are satisfied with their medical care, but government reports as far as 1991 found problems with that care. Some returned volunteers tell CBS News they’ve fallen through the cracks both during and after their service — in some cases, for decades, reports CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave.

In 1965, Nancy Minadeo Flanigan was a Peace Corps volunteer in Malaysia. She was raped by local men and impregnated with a daughter, who died at birth.

“I started having depression and nightmares and flashbacks,” Flanigan said.

In 2012 she got word she would be reimbursed for 50 years of medical bills, but she needed receipts.

“Well, it’s been 50 years. I don’t have any receipts,” Flanigan said.

Now 73 years old, Flanigan is on food stamps and struggling to get by.

“The mission of the Peace Corps is to help other people in other countries, but what about me? I’m here and I need some help,” Flanigan said.

By law, Peace Corps volunteers who return sick or injured have to go through the Department of Labor for medical care.

“We care deeply about our returned volunteers,” said Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet, “They served our nation and we really want them to be able to get the care and support they need and we’re working hand in hand with the Department of Labor to make that happen.”

A task force established by the Peace Corps in March found some returned volunteers have been waiting years — even decades — to have their medical issues resolved, and admits some of the issues cannot be quickly resolved or would require legislative change.

Former Peace Corps volunteer Victoria Smith described the reimbursement process as a “heavy bureaucratic mess.” She broke her leg volunteering in Jamaica in 2008 and a Peace Corps-contracted doctor operated, but she can barely walk.

“It was done incorrectly,” Smith said. “(Peace Corps) never contacted me, didn’t return phone calls or emails. They sent investigators out, though, just to make sure I wasn’t lying about my injuries. Basically, I don’t want to sound dramatic, but I’m pretty much dead to them.”

In 2012, the Government Accountability Office found fault with both Peace Corps and the Department of Labor for not tracking the accessibility and quality of care for returned volunteers.

While volunteering in Thailand in 2010, William Harless got an infection. He says the pain is still excruciating and he struggles to get care.

When Harless tried to go to a doctor, he said there was no reputable clinic that would take his workman’s compensation.

“My claim examiners at the Department of Labor have treated me like I’m a parasite whose trying to live off the government dole,” Harless said.

Smith continues to fight for reimbursement. She says her mother keeps her going.

“Because I know if I ended it all, it would tear her apart but if she weren’t here, I can’t tell you what I would do,” Smith said.

Smith asked for an investigation of how the Peace Corps handled her injury. She was told standards for medical officers were upgraded in 2012, but months later, Sue Castle’s son, Nick, died from a stomach virus while volunteering in China.

Castle believes her son would still be alive if he hadn’t joined the Peace Corps.

“It took me two years of fighting to get an inspector general’s report finding fault with his treatment,” she said.

That report found “cascading failures” and “delays in treatment” led to Nick’s death.

“When you’re really sick, you really can’t advocate for yourself and they’re not advocating for you either. So there needs to be better measures in place,” Castle said.

The Peace Corps says it has been implementing significant reforms, like hiring staff to help with the claims process. But to do more, the law would have to change.

The Department of Labor told us the average volunteer gets a decision on their claim within 29 to 46 days.

Read more about Nancy here: https://issuu.com/sheppardpratt/docs/spheal_w17




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  • The Bipartisan Legislation to reform health care was introduced last session on September 9, 2016.
    Here is the last information I can find on action of that bill. Evidently, it was referred to committee and died there.
    “09/15/2016 Referred to House Oversight and Government Reform
    Action By: House of Representatives”

    Here is the intial report from NPCA about the legislation.

    Maybe we can get a report from NPCA on further Follow Up.

    • The bill would be have to be reintroduced. We are working on legislation for improved health care in service as well as post service. It has been a long frustrating journey and the people who are advocating have the least resources physically and emotionally to carry on this task.
      Sue Castle-mom of Nick Castle Peace Corps China 18.
      Died in service 2013

  • Dear Sue Castle, thank you so much for the update and your tireless efforts on behalf of serving PCVsand RPCVs.
    We all are sorry for your loss and join you in remembering your son, Nick.

  • One of the easiest and cost effective ways to enable RPCVs the receive need medical care related to injuries and illness stemming fro Peace corps service is to enable RPCVs to access the already established VA medical facilities.

    A simple sentence added to the re-authorization to VA funding such as, ‘Returned Peace Corps Volunteers are eligible for treatments of illness stemming from their Peace Corps services as verified by the Peace Corps Administration,” or some wording to that effect.

    I, by the grace of God, haven’t needed help but I’m all for lobbing for it.

    Jim Wolter, RPCV Malaya I, ’61-’66

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