Monday, March 15, 2010

A Cautionary Tale: Real Life Interrupted

I don’t know in what universe I was in when this aired in 2008.  I don’t remember seeing this. But the late Anne Pressly of Channel 7 News in Little Rock, Arkansas did this series. I bumped into this material on YouTube; I do not have an update on this case; I do not know if this was resolved. It looks like from a quick look online that George Word is listed as an RSO in Baghdad, but that information is not dated.  Two years ago, this DSS agent from Arkansas battled with the State Department on behalf of his wife.  I think of this as a cautionary tale.

“George Word says his wife, Connie didn't get the health care promised by the State Department when she suffered a debilitating brain injury. Connie Word is in a persistent vegative state. She has been for 6-years, but her husband says were it not for the negligence of the federal government, Connie could have had a nearly full recovery from her brain injury and a chance at a normal life.

George wants accountability from the state department, something his U.S. senators have been able to help him get, despite their repeated efforts. While Connie Word is fighting for her life, her husband, George, is fighting one of the most powerful bureaucracies in the world, the U.S. State Department. Connie suffered a heart attack while George was serving as Chief Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe. The 44-year-old was walking the couple's children to the school bus stop when she collapsed.”

(Word) "The medical director said you can't say for a fact that your assignment to Zimbabwe had anything to do with Connie's current condition."

So George hired an attorney to help determine his rights as an employee. Turns out, the state department does have an avenue for disputing denied payments. It's called an administrative review. All decisions are final as foreign affairs manual says there are no appeals. George was able to get an administrative review. The department decided they wouldn't pay for Connie to go back to Baptist, but they would pay for her nursing home expenses, on one condition.

(Word) "Out of a humanitarian gesture, the State Department is willing to pay for Connie's nursing home care for the rest of her life if you'll sign a non-disclosure statement, more or less saying this never happened, and just walk away."

Against the advice of his attorney, George refused the offer and instead went to his senators for help, who immediately started writing letters on George and Connie's behalf.

(Word) "I'll gladly give up by career to get changes so people receive the protection they're due. They're covering it up is what they're doing. And I'm not going to let them get away with it."

George says despite his refusal to sign a non-disclosure, the State Department continues to pay for Connie nursing home care, though he say's he has no idea how long that will last. 

Soon, George will be heading to Washington to meet with the Assistant Secretary of State. He says after years of trying to get time before department officials, the reaction to this story has not been limited to our nation's capital, there has also been an overwhelming response in Arkansas about George and Connie Word's story, everyone from friends of Connie who knew her in Little Rock before she married to a businessman who's involved in starting a Hyperberic Oxygen Facility for people, like Connie, whose insurance carrier refuses to pay for treatment.

Transcript of video series below:

Part 1: State Department Agent Blames Government for Wife's Plight | Jan 30, 2008

Part II | State of Care | Jan 31, 2008

Part III | State of Care | February 2, 2008

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