Peace corps medical history
December 31, 2012 8:49 AM   Subscribe

For current and previous peace corps volunteers, Have you lied on your peace corps medical clearance? What did you lie about and how did it end up working out?

I am considering applying for the peace corps but about 4 years ago I took an anti-depressant for like 4 months . Never had i a relapse after I quit taking it nor did I have a history of depression before that. I was told its best not to mention it to the peace corps medical history form as it will decrease my chance of being selected so wanted to see if someone had similar story and perhaps some advises.
posted by Globallife12 to Law & Government (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Lying on an application form of any sort is always a bad idea. The information is almost certain to come out eventually, and then you'll have to deal not only with the information, but the lie. Lying on an application form for a job can be grounds for termination. I would imagine that the Peace Corps is no different.

It looks like their medical forms make allowances for symptoms and issues that have been experienced but are currently resolved. For instance, I had surgery twice in the last ten years, but the most recent was in 2006, but both conditions were resolved and neither had any complications. I always include these on my medical history forms, but no one has ever said anything about them.

So you had a visit with a mental health professional a few years ago. Looks like the experience was brief and had a good outcome. It's possible that the person reviewing your application might actually view this as a good thing. Not only are you being honest and forthcoming about yourself, but you're also showing that you have the awareness--and courage--to seek out help if you need it.

Tell the truth.

That being said, there's a difference between lying and not being entirely forthcoming. What you need to do is carefully read the forms involved to see if this incident in your medical history is fairly responsive to any of the questions. It might not be. If it isn't, you don't necessarily have to disclose it. But if it is fairly responsive, even arguably, you'll probably be better off just listing it and moving on. Odds are decent that there are lots of other things on your application that they'll care about more.

Take a look at the Peace Corps Medical Information form. Mental conditions are listed as something that will cause a deferral for further evaluation, but stable, treated conditions are the exception. This would seem to fall into that category. But if you look at the heading, it says that they're only relevant if you're currently dealing with them. Unless you continue to deal with depression, this condition shouldn't even trigger a deferral analysis.
posted by valkyryn at 9:04 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

A friend of mine disclosed that he was bipolar to the Peace Corps. They took him. His condition had been controlled with medication for over five years.
posted by anthropomorphic at 9:30 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

This won't disqualify you. The Peace Corps is only concerned about your medical history if it will have an effect on your service, particularly given that you'll likely be in the middle of nowhere with inadequate medical care at your disposal. If you're currently taking medication, they only care if A) it isn't helping, or B) you'll die if something goes wrong with a supply run and you can't get more quickly enough. If you used to take medication, they don't care at all.
posted by Etrigan at 9:33 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's really no good reason to lie about this. I did PC after I was on an SSRI (for anxiety, but they're the same drugs) for six months or so in grad school. As long as you took it correctly and cleared going off of it with your mental health professional (and get a signed statement from same saying so) you will have zero problem about this. In fact, given the length of time it has been, you may not even need the signed statement.

Now here is a very good reason TO disclose this information: anti-malarials. There are three kinds that PC uses, or at least there were three they used in my country of service, and of the three they most often prescribe Lariam (aka Meflaquine) because it is only taken once a week; the others are dailies and therefore more often forgotten. The drawback to Lariam is that it sometimes has psychological side effects - added to the stress of PC itself (btw, feel free to MeMail me if you're interested more generally in my experience, which was very positive overall), it can cause really serious anxiety, even hallucinations. And if you have any medical history of issues like depression or anxiety, they'll know not to give you Lariam (they'll give you doxycycline instead, most likely, which is also not necessarily great for you, but it has no psych-related side effects).
posted by solotoro at 10:19 AM on December 31, 2012 [6 favorites]

Current PCV here. From what I can tell, it won't stop you from being selected -- getting into Peace Corps is mostly an issue of sticking with the application process. But they will probably ask for a statement from you, and from your doctor/psychiatrist about it. It'll mean a little more effort to get cleared, but it shouldn't ultimately stop you from getting an invitation.

To be honest, I've known a few volunteers who have not disclosed medical information because they didn't want the hassle of obtaining said statements about minor issues or because they had been invited already and worried about delaying their departure. It worked out for them. But obviously lying is a risk because something could happen during your service where that info would be relevant, and you'll be in trouble (medically, with admin, etc.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:59 AM on December 31, 2012

I would strongly not recommend lying - even by omission - on the medical clearance stuff. I'm a former PCV who served with my husband. He had some low-level anxiety issues that he disclosed and was still cleared for service.

A married couple who served just before us in our host country had a blog that I can't locate online now. The wife had a chronic issue with a dislocating shoulder but answered "no" to a specific question about that on the forms (I think technically they asked if she had sought medical treatment for the condition, and she claimed she could truthfully answer no because she had never sought treatment, just fixed it herself). When in country she dislocated her shoulder but was not able to self-fix it. She was brought to the capitol city for more medical care and let it slip to the Peace Corps nurse that it had happened in the past. The nurse compared that statement to the forms and the whole thing got written up as a big administrative issue (including lectures from the country staff and the woman bursting into tears). The wife was ultimately shipped back to the US and had medical care/shoulder surgery covered by the PC, but the doctor would not clear her for service so she was medically separated. I got the impression from the blog that the PC could have put it on an administrative termination track instead because of the omitted medical information.

Just to finish the story, the husband was not separated, and they wound up self-funding for the wife to come back to the country and finish out the service term at their school. The PC didn't like it at all, but they kind of laid low and didn't do anything to draw attention to their situation.

Just from my own PC experience, it varies a lot country to country, but there is a major administrative side to the organization and they can really be sticklers about rules and regulations.

Also, double plus what is said above - the PC wants you to self-select out of the application process. There isn't much they'll actually drop you over, but they make it a long ordeal so that only the dedicated will stick around to the end.
posted by handful of rain at 12:24 PM on December 31, 2012

Don't lie, you will feel better about it.
posted by ibakecake at 12:44 PM on December 31, 2012

I certainly would not advocate lying, however, it is certainly common. Toward the end of my PC training, we had an icebreaker where the leaders would ask a question and volunteers would step forward if it were true. When it came to "Did you lie on your peace corps application?", almost everyone stepped forward.
posted by zug at 3:12 PM on December 31, 2012

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