16 September 2005
Finally I, too am writing. It has been interesting following all of your
I was also separated from the Peace Corps in 1988 due to psychiatric
problems. Actually this did not develop from culture shock or job related difficulties
while on site, but due to boyfriend problems. Coulda happened anywhere -- it
happened while I was in training in South America. I developed a sleeping
disorder. Of course, day to day stresses probably did aggravate the situation.
Peace Corps took responsibility for all aspects of your life -- kind of them! I
asked for counselling through Peace Corps right away, but the infrastructure
was not there. They provided it for me a year and a half later, but by then it
was too late. I was losing so much sleep I was hallucinating. I was sent home
after a year and nine months of service.
I felt the Peace Corps did their job once I was back stateside, and my
expenses for psychiatric care are still handled by US Dept. of Labor OWCP. However,
even then OWCP was a dinosaur. I had to handle all the paper work for
reimbursement for medications. Finally OWCP got my pharmacy in the system, and I don't
have to pay much attention to that any more. However, like with the rest of
you, it is getting more difficult in other ways.
In December 2004 the psychiatrist handling my medications retired. His
replacement was not considered a provider under OWCP. They would not pay him for my
office visits. Now, I have had dozens of doctors treating my disorder since
1988, because I have moved a lot, and so have my doctors. This was the first
time OWCP had not accepted one as a provider, as far as I know. Finally he has
been paid for my three office visits, 10 months after I first saw him. He has
drummed it in to me that fewer doctors are taking OWCP patients for this very
reason -- it appears to be the most cumbersome health insurance agency in the US.
Getting reimbursement for lab work has also become screwy this past year.
OWCP would not accept the diagnosis codes submitted by my current doctor for my
lab work -- they would not accept the specific code for my disorder, only a
"nonspecific diagnosis" code originally submitted when I originally returned from
the Peace Corps, before my diagnosis was solidified. With the help of Rep.
James Oberstar those bills have now been paid, but I think still using that
"nonspecific" code. I know OWCP has codes available for my disorder -- and my
psychiatrist thinks it would be better to use them. Some of my doctors used them
successfully with OWCP earlier. (Go figure.)
Tomorrow Oberstar will be in my town at a fundraiser dinner and I believe
will be taking a moment to speak with me in person. I dropped off copies of some
of your letters at his area office yesterday so he'll have a chance to look
them over. We need to develop a unified approach to encourage US Dept. of Labor
OWCP to deal with its current and former employees in an equitable manner. I
know that their personnel are overstretched and subject to rapid burnout -- but
whose problem is that?!
This group serve is a good start. What's the next step?
I am open to suggestions.