Dear NPCA Board of Directors,
Nancy E. Tongue (Chile 1980-82)
I have heard about the dismissal of Glenn Blumhorst from NPCA and am most distressed about it. I understand there were rumors on social media but I didn’t take them seriously until I received the email from NPCA last week and was shocked. I have read the plaintiff report and also am aware that the case against him was reviewed by Attorney Herbet, an independent legal counsel and that Glenn was found unimpeachable by Attorney Herbert. I am dumbfounded that he has been dismissed.
I have suffered severe health issues from my service in the PC in Chile (1980-82) and had been trying, in vain, to get any recognition for the need for help from either NPCA or the Peace Corps for nearly three decades between 1982-2011. In 2011 when Tony Barclay came on board and openly listened to my story about the suffering of so many of us who could not access adequate health help for service incurred health issues, he came to NY to meet me, contacted Carrie Hessler-Radelet who immediately also came to New York to solicit my help and insight. She arranged for me to meet with the Deputy Secretary of Labor Chis Lu and all of his district leaders so I could propose improvements for those on disability and those in need of liaisons. I thought our journey toward reformation had finally begun.
Until then, it seemed no one at NPCA, including the board, wanted to hear a single criticism of the Peace Corps. All I wanted was to get better and to have access to health care and a living wage on disability. Remember, until the ACA, none of us with illnesses could access healthcare in America because the illnesses accrued in the Peace Corps became “pre-existing” once we returned. Some RPCVs had to return overseas to get treatments or live because they couldn’t afford to be sick in the US. Those who did obtain disability found that it put them just slightly enough over the poverty level to disallow them to access Medicare healthcare.
Once Glenn Blumhorst came on as President of NPCA, he was not only willing, but fervently fought for justice and Congressional reform of the laws that govern health care in the field and upon return to the states. Importantly, he listened. We have been making more headway under his tenure than we had for 30 years prior. He has helped orchestrate new legislation that I, Jonathan Pearson, and other RPCVs have arduously worked on, and that, if passed, will directly positively affect people like me who desperately need an increase in disability wage income through an increased PC budget (see PC Reauthorization Act (https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1456/text
). This legislation also addresses the need for improvements in mental health care and antimalarial medications to list only a few. Without him, I feel we will lose the possibility of this legislation passing and many of us will lose a great leader.
Over these years I have met with Glenn numerous times in the NPCA office both alone and with other NPCA employees, on the Hill with staffers, with other RPCvs and directly with Congressional legislators. I have met with him in DC and in NYC in various venues including in motels, restaurants, lobbies and other places both publicly and privately to discuss strategies. He has always been extremely professional and appropriate. He has personally backed our www.healthjusticeforpeacecorpsvolunteers.org
mission (which I founded under the auspices of NPCA), working as a stakeholder with me and others at meetings with Peace Corps Directors and Acting Directors and other PC staff through the past decade.
He is one of the most respectful and empathetic persons I know, always caring, honoring boundaries both physical and emotional, focused on the mission of improving the efforts of RPCVs and programs in the US and in the field overseas. I would trust him to work with honor and deference in any situation.
I am disgusted to learn of the way in which a man of his stature was dismissed, or that he was dismissed at all. I have not been in the NPCA office in the past two years so I can not speak of things that have transpired between persons there I do not know.
I question the validity of what has been presented in the material I have read criticizing Glenn. I truly fear that without the leadership of Glenn that many RPCVs now will lack support and that people in my position will never get the health underpinning we so desperately need. As stated above, for over 40 years I have not obtained the help I have needed from the Peace Corps staff or directors (with the exception of Carrie Hessler-Hadelet for a short term) and have given up the hope that the Peace Corps will truly ever put the health and security of Volunteers and RPCVs first. Glenn has been determined to elicit not just help, but actual reform. I expected better conduct from the Board of Directors of an agency such as NPCA.
Many seem to continue to want to admire the Peace Corps and the NPCA from a distance with recollections from the “good” old days of their Peace Corps service, Does the board really want to work toward improving the Peace Corps and life for RPCVs even if it means facing issues that should be challenged, using their position in a mission to do so? Are they willing to face the tarnish and make the agency and all of us better? Or do they want to continue to simply polish the shine on the image of the Peace Corps and continue telling their old Peace Corps stories?
I know many, who have been sick or injured through the years afraid to speak out for fear of reprisals or loss of the health care or disability benefits and I accept that. But I know many more in financial and social positions who have been unwilling to do so due to potential damage to the Peace Corps “name.” I include some PC staff and Board Members in this group. Glenn, along with Jonathan Pearson, has been desirous to speak the truth about the journeys of those of us suffering. My concern grows that the board wants to continue to protect the Peace Corps in a glass bubble rather than calling out its flaws to work to make the PC the best agency it can be. I fear the purpose of the NPCA mission will be lost if Glenn can be dismissed in the manner he has, having already been exonerated.
I feel I can no longer trust a board that behaves in this manner, not seeing who Glenn Blumhorst is or has done for NPCA and so many. Glenn is a caring and dedicated person, always working ceasely to improve the agencies and reaching out to individuals in distress with empathy, often traveling across the country to do so. Without him, we all will suffer.
I kindly ask that since the Board enlisted an independent investigator who concluded that the allegations of misconduct were not credible, that they please re-evaluate their decision and reinstate him in his position.
Nancy E. Tongue
Nancy Tongue (Chile 1980-82) founder of Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers (HJPCV)