Civil servant seeking help
by Mindy Aguon
Guam - When a loved one is serving in the armed forces and gets deployed, the stress of having to manage while the other is gone can take its toll, especially if you have children. For one civil servant, the deployment has been the toughest challenge of his life as he battles his own illness, fights to keep his youngest child alive and fights to keep his job on a daily basis.
"Right now, I'm so stressed out. I can't sleep at night. I'm thinking about my daughter. I'm thinking about my fiancée back there. I'm thinking about my work. I'm stressing out so much," shared Jason Duenas. He has the weight of the world on his shoulders. the stress has sent him to the hospital four times in a single week. Duenas has a heart condition, and since November when his fiancée was deployed he's been taking care of their three children while trying to maintain his job as a supply clerk for the Defense Commissary Agency Central Distribution Center.
But at the beginning of the year, his 3-year-old daughter began having seizures. "It would last an hour and she stopped breathing," he nervously recalled.
Duenas accompanied his daughter as she was medivac'ed to Hawaii to see a neurologist for her condition. The diagnosis requires that Duenas' daughter go off-island every few months for follow-up procedures. When he submitted the medical documentation to his employer and tried to claim it under the Family Medical Leave Act, Duenas says that's when the trouble started at his work.
"They're trying to get rid of me, which right now they haven't written me up because why? There 's nothing they can write me up on. When the big boss turned around and told me why don't I resign so I can take care of my ill child," he said. "You don't want to accept a doctor's note which has a date when I'm gonna return a, signature and a stamp by a doctor and you're telling me it's not an acceptable medical document?" he said.
Duenas claims his employer even wanted to know the specific medical conditions that he and his daughter have, which he believes is a violation of the Health Information and Patient Privacy Act. The lack of support from his employer, whose very mission is to support soldiers and their families, has left Duenas frustrated and exhausted. He continued, "I went through EEO. EEO took my complaint and to now they haven't gotten back to me regarding my claim, discrimination, harassment, not accepting my FMLA, telling me to resign."
Duenas continues to try and go to work but is hoping the matter is resolved before he has to take his daughter for treatment again in June. "All I want is to just to care for my kids. That's my job right now while my wife is out there serving our country. I'm not asking for special treatment," he said.
KUAM News contacted DeCA headquarters for comment and was told that any discussion regarding Duenas and his concerns could not be released until they received Duenas' permission in writing at their Virginia offices. Gary Frankovich, however, did confirm that DeCA complies with the U.S. Department of Labor Regulations including the Family Medical Leave Act. Of note is that the FMLA allows for an employee to take time off from work.
The Act also provides for military family leave entitlements for those employees whose spouse is called to active duty.