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Re: Invitation to join the owcp group

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  • Kevin
    From: rick rhodes To: rpcv@coolgoose.com Subject: Re: Invitation to join the owcp group Date: Tue, 12 Jul 2005 13:23:21 -0400 Kevin, I
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 12, 2005
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      From: "rick rhodes" <rkrhodes@...>
      To: rpcv@...
      Subject: Re: Invitation to join the owcp group
      Date: Tue, 12 Jul 2005 13:23:21 -0400

      Kevin,

      I wanted to join your group and post a letter [below] before heading
      out of town again tomorrow...

      Anyway, I'd be more than willing to share my thoughts with others,
      and more than likely add my name to a letter which is aimed at
      helping other injured RPCV's. If kosher, and electronically possible,
      you're more than welcome to post my ... message contribution, Rick

      Rick Rhodes
      cell: 727-459-5992
      fax: 727-527-8287
      www.heronislandguides.com (author/publisher)
      www.rickrhodesguide.com (realtor)


      To Whoever,

      Kevin asked me to join this group and share my thoughts.

      I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador 1999-2000, and 45-46 years
      old at that time. After 17 months of service, I was medically
      separated with three conditions: 1) falciparum malaria (which nearly
      did me in …and contracted, in part, because Peace Corps Ecuador was
      prescribing chloroquine versus the stronger larium –the CDC was
      recommending larium folks in Ecuador) 2) a sore shoulder (which
      turned-out to be a torn rotator cuff)…and I lived with that condition
      for six months before surgery, and 3) sore knees. I was medically
      separated in July 2000. The seemingly most minor problem at that
      time, the knees, turned out to be the most long-term debilitating.
      At medical separation time, I was placed on and handed off to DOL's
      Federal Workers Compensation program. I was [arbitrarily?]
      terminated from this DOL program after about 12 months.

      Since, the Peace Corps, I've had five knee surgeries, including three
      failed `total knee replacements.' Neither the DOL nor the Peace
      Corps paid for any of these knee operations. About 18 months after
      my Peace Corps service, I could no longer obtain health insurance,
      thanks to my Peace Corps knee condition. Thankfully, I'm also an
      Army Veteran, and had the VA hospital as a provider of last resort…
      otherwise I'd probably not be here. For years now, I have needed to
      work-out my knees at about 30 hours/week, and 7 days/week at a local
      YMCA. And today, I've re-made them semi-functional. But, this has
      taken a huge toll on me –time-wise and financially.

      I'd honestly like to strangle some of those at OWCP, (esp. in
      Washington). I had strong orthopedic medical statements as well as
      other statements supporting that my knees really went to hell while I
      was in the Peace Corps. I was athletic and played on a men's
      softball team before the Peace Corps. Soon after my Peace Corps
      service, I needed a walker to get a around. But the OWCP examiners
      wouldn't let the facts get in the way in finding ingenious ways to
      deny my six appeals. Actually they weren't ingenious ways; they were
      very moronic excuses for denials, and their reasoning would be
      laughable, if it weren't so sobering. I hypothesis, that OWCP has an
      unsavory AGENDA TO DENY as many FEDERAL WORKERS Comp Cases as
      possible (even if they have to `cook the books' to do so)? They
      probably figure that this may not be such a bad thing. After all, if
      a FEDERAL WORKER (and there are a relatively very few of us injured
      Peace Corps Workers lumped-in with perhaps 1,000 of other injured
      federal workers) is denied his/her claim, he/she can always go back
      to work, injured or not, and start the process to get a disability
      retirement (i.e., if they are still injured), and then every thing
      will work out hunky-dory. But unlike Federal Workers, injured Peace
      Corps VOLUNTEERS do not have this return-to-work option.

      The last round of Appeals is with the Employees Compensation Appeals
      Board (ECAB) at DOL. This group is much more professional than
      OWCP. And they will hopefully come up with a better decision. But
      in the meantime after more than three and a half years, tons of
      savings were lost just to meet my frugal living expenses, and I now
      was unable to re-enter the traditionally workforce on account of my
      knee disability, while I waited for a favorable decision from ECAB.
      I finally did receive a favorable ruling by ECAB on March 3, 2005.
      But then my case was remanded back to OWCP. OWCP again placed more
      layers of paperwork (and I only found out what these layers of
      paperwork was, after I called them several times in order to correct
      their flawed termination decision dating back to more three and a
      half years). Just yesterday, July 11, 2005, I finally received my
      first monthly support stipend check…after 40 months of waiting and
      appealing, and submitting reams of paperwork.

      To other Volunteers, here are some of my thoughts after my experience:

      1) Go for the final decision as soon as possible (but should you
      loose here, you're totally SOL). ECAB, the folks who are make that
      final decision, are significantly more professional, and less agenda
      driven than OWCP.

      2) The Peace Corps has a real sweet thing going here. They are
      able to pass-off injured volunteers to the Department of Labor, and
      then wash their hands of you. If the DOL doesn't comprehend you
      injuries, trauma, or your inability to re-enter the work force due to
      your injuries, that just too bad. It's the DOL (i.e., not the Peace
      Corps) who are the bad guys. The current Peace Corps director;
      wouldn't respond to my many letters. I could be wrong, but he
      strikes me as someone who is more interested in getting his photo
      taken with volunteers in all corners of the world, rather than
      someone who is willing to roll up his sleeves and try to find a
      better solution to this problem of a few [long-term] injured
      volunteers.

      3) I have repeatedly written my three Washington legislatures as
      well as many other legislatures –other legislatures who I thought had
      experience in this type of problem for injured Peace Corps
      Volunteers. Legislatures, outside my state, even though they might
      be more knowledgeable, very very seldom respond to constituents who
      are not in their own state. And this is a real problem. RPCVs (and
      injured RPCVs) are scattered around 50 states, and I don't think we
      (i.e., injured RPCV's) have a centralized lobbing support group on
      Capital Hill? Small moaning voices scattered among 50 states are
      less likely heard than if we had a one voice advocate closer to
      Capitol Hill.

      4) Again DOL's OWCP doesn't appreciate nor understand the plight
      of seriously injured RPCV, coupled with the likelihood that OWCP has
      an overall agenda agency `to deny claims.' And the current political
      will at the highest levels of the Peace Corps seems more interested
      in working-up glossy images of overseas Peace Corps
      volunteers/situations than addressing the serious work-related injury
      problems that occur to only a relatively few number of us injured
      RPCVs.

      I hope this info is able to help someone else, Rick Rhodes
      (rkrhodes@...; mobile: 727-459-5992),

      And I would be willing to sign just about any letter. My zip code is
      33702.
    • FourDirect@aol.com
      Rick, Welcome to our group and I m sorry it has to be under unfortunate circumstances. I have been through a very similar journey healthwise and
      Message 2 of 2 , Jul 14, 2005
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        Rick,
        Welcome to our group and I'm sorry it has to be under unfortunate circumstances. I have been through a very similar journey healthwise and government-wise. I like your insight into the "agenda" and have always been fairly well convinced of the same. And key to our situations is that we don't have the option of returning to our "agencies" - something I've actually never seen addressed before.

        I appreciate your sharing your personal background and your helpful suggestions for the benefit of others.

        For the group, the quote Rick used to which I'm referring is as follows:

        "I hypothesis, that OWCP has an
        unsavory AGENDA TO DENY as many FEDERAL WORKERS Comp Cases as
        possible (even if they have to `cook the books' to do so)?  They
        probably figure that this may not be such a bad thing.  After all, if
        a FEDERAL WORKER (and there are a relatively very few of us injured
        Peace Corps Workers lumped-in with perhaps 1,000 of other injured
        federal workers) is denied his/her claim, he/she can always go back
        to work, injured or not, and start the process to get a disability
        retirement (i.e., if they are still injured), and then every thing
        will work out hunky-dory.  But unlike Federal Workers, injured Peace
        Corps VOLUNTEERS do not have this return-to-work option."

        Stay in touch with us, Rick.

        Best,
        Nancy



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