I've been off and on sick from a series of Peace Corps illnesses, as many
of you know, for about 20 years. I am on "Temporary Total Disability" which is
obviously not enough to live on. I have some cyclic and remitting periods and
I've returned to part time work but it has never been financially worthwhile as
I have been dropped out of the OWCP system on each occasion and it took up to
two years each time to get back in. Each time I feared for my health and housing
and ultimately my survival. I don't have a disability that can be measured
quantitatively, which makes it hard to predict.
Subsequently, I decided that it was no longer worth trying to work
part-time but decided instead to refocus my energy into getting as well as
possible and then into changing career directions. I am now back in grad school
in another field in the hope that when I get out that I will be able to drop
OWCP all together. I hope to be able to earn enough doing part-time work
that can provide health insurance and get out of this system that keeps me
fighting and pleading for every little thing I get. It is not a system that
But I am fortunate in having an illness that, although will last my
lifetime, will allow me to get back into the workforce (I hope). Living just
above poverty was one thing 20 years ago in Chile but not so fun in New York.
And like Meg's wonderful words so eloquently expressed "disability is not my
career choice" either.
I finally did apply for Social Security Disability even though I had no
idea how long I'd be unable to work. I kept postponing the process and the
longer I waited the longer I struggled to get additional health insurance. Many
of us lobbied to get a supplemental plan from the Peace Corps for many
years, years ago, to no avail. So, I did apply for SSD and I did get it on my
first try! I sort of overwhelmed them with as much documentation from as many
sources as was possible. My illness is tough in that it has no official
diagnosis but is rather a set of syndromes, although I did have Bovine TB just
after serving in Chile that was clearly related to my work there.
Now, I am able to be covered by Medicare and I plan to get off that once I
go back to work in the future. So it did solve the additional health insurance
issue. I think that anyone who has been unable to work for 2 years should at
least apply and see what happens if they have the stamina for more paperwork and
not lose hope of someday healing more.
Again, the key is to keep seeing doctors or medical practitioners not so
much for medical improvement but to simply be monitored and to have a paper
trail. At least that's a lesson I've learned that has served me well. If I
had a marriage partner or a job that provided health insurance I'd probably try
to get out of this whole government quagmire.
Glad people are back on and expressing ideas! I miss folks when they're