House Foreign Affairs Committee Approves Revised Version of H.R. 2259 see more
As we prepare for a June 28th Peace Corps Health Justice Capitol Hill advocacy day (click here to register), pending health and safety legislation took another important step forward, but not without a setback.
Thursday morning, the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) unanimously approved the latest version of the legislation (H.R. 2259). The bi-partisan legislation was introduced by Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and RPCV Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-MA).
The next stop for the legislation is expected to be the floor of the House of Representatives for a final vote by the chamber. In March, the Senate gave unanimous approval to its version of this legislation.
The HFAC vote was on an amended bill Congressmen Poe presented to the committee. Several differences remain between Senate and House bills and will require further negotiation.
Similarities and Differences
There is significant alignment in many provisions in the Senate and House bills dealing with continued or new reforms to address sexual assault and other forms of violence against serving Peace Corps volunteers. There is also similar language to address reforms to further improve medical care for serving volunteers.
As the House legislation now stands, significant changes were made to proposed reforms to support Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who are back in the U.S. confronting injuries or illness related to their service. Perhaps the most significant change is the removal of a provision originally proposed and fought for by the affiliate group Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers, to increase the low level of financial support for individuals whose short or long term injuries or illness render them eligible for workers’ compensation.
With some opposition among other House members due to costs related to the workers' compensation provision, Congressman Poe expressed his disappointment in removing that portion of the bill. As he noted in his submitted remarks to the committee, "I fought long and hard to increase the disability payment provided to disabled returned volunteers so they can make ends meet. I hope that this provision will one day become law. However, until then, the (other) improvements in this bill are essential and valuable for our angels abroad."
Read this press release with comments from Congressmen Poe and Kennedy following today's HFAC action.
A bi-partisan group of HFAC members took time during the committee meeting to express support the the Peace Corps, its volunteers and various parts of the House legislation. They included HFAC Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), Brad Sherman (D-CA, who noted his wife was a volunteer in Togo who needed medical care and faced an interruption in her service), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Tom Garrett (R-VA).
A bi-partisan group of sixty House Representatives are co-sponsors of H.R. 2259.
Registration is now open for Capitol Hill advocacy on Thursday, June 28th see more
For the fourth consecutive year in June, NPCA will hold a Peace Corps Health Justice Awareness Day.
And, for the second consecutive year, this day will include Peace Corps community advocacy on Capitol Hill.
Our 2018 awareness day will be Thursday, June 28th. As we prepare for advocates to join us on Capitol Hill, health and safety legislation continues to advance in Congress. While the Senate passed its health/safety legislation earlier this year, legislation in the House of Representatives is expected to go before the Foreign Affairs Committee this week.
Register Now for Capitol Hill Advocacy
Our June 28th Capitol Hill advocacy will begin at 11 AM and run throughout the day. Registration is now open. Sign up here and make plans to join us.
Come to Capitol Hill for Health Justice Awareness Day - June 22 see more
We are very proud of the hard work and commitment of our NPCA Volunteer Advocacy Coordinators – who are the key conduits between NPCA advocacy staff and our community at large. As we approach our third annual Health Justice Awareness Day, we are featuring Louisiana Advocacy Coordinator Kendra LeSar (Honduras 2007-09), who will be on Capitol Hill on June 22 to advocate for critical Peace Corps health care legislation, something she cares about from both a professional and personal perspective.
Best of Both Worlds
When Kendra graduated from college, she faced a decision that many face. Peace Corps or graduate school? “When I found the Master's International program at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine it seemed like the best of both. I was assigned to work with two government-run health centers in eastern Honduras where I taught reproductive health, HIV prevention, and nutrition classes.”
Kendra’s main assignment ended turned out to be teaching 5th grade sex education at a public elementary school. “I loved it and have worked in school health ever since.”
Making Advocacy Personal
As an experienced advocate who has engaged at both the national and state level, Kendra is coming to Washington because she knows the most effective advocacy goes beyond a phone click.
“I think that participating in our democracy is critical. While emails and phone calls are useful, showing up and speaking to elected officials and their staff can have a huge impact on their consideration of issues.”
And, when it comes to Peace Corps post-service health care, Kendra’s personal experience is like that of many others. “I am coming to share my personal experience as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who is proud to have served my country but who also faced challenges accessing care for service-related injuries when I came home. I hope to speak with elected officials from Louisiana to tell them how important the Peace Corps is and how difficult it can be, under the current system, for volunteers to receive the health care that they need.”
Progress on Multiple Fronts
As the Advocacy Coordinator with the Louisiana Peace Corps Association, Kendra says she is seeing increased interest in advocacy for Peace Corps and many other issues. “Our campaign to contact elected officials in March led to (Congressman) Cedric Richmond signing on to the Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter for the first time. It's exciting to see our efforts pay off!”
At the same time, Kendra notes that being an advocate for the Peace Corps goes beyond funding. “Funding is obviously essential to keep the Peace Corps operating, but to truly support the current, future, and returned volunteers we need to advocate for policies to improve the agency. As a public health professional, I think it is critical to ensure that all volunteers have access to the health services they need both while they are serving and when they return home.”
There is still time to join Kendra on Capitol Hill on June 22nd, but you need to register here by our Sunday, June 18th deadline.
And, if you can’t join us on Capitol Hill, set aside time and make plans to take action on June 22nd during our Health Justice Awareness Day.
#8: If not us, who? We have to act: Health Justice Awareness Day, June 22 see more
As the Peace Corps community prepares for our 3rd annual Health Justice Awareness Day on June 22nd, here are eight reasons why you should join us on Capitol Hill or make plans to take action to advance Peace Corps health legislation in the House of Representatives (HR 2259, A.K.A. The Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act).
1. The Right Thing to Do
Peace Corps Volunteers served our country with honor and distinction, putting their health and well-being at risk. For those who came home with service-related illness and injuries, we need to help them get the care and support they deserve.
2. Strengthened Care at Posts
From codifying health standards at Peace Corps posts, to further addressing malaria prophylaxis standards, to further monitoring and evaluating volunteer satisfaction, The Peace Corps Enhancement Act seeks to further strengthen care in the field.
3. Continuity of Care
The Peace Corps Enhancement Act proposes to expand Peace Corps involvement in post-service diagnosis and treatment for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) with service-related health issues for up to six months.
4. Fairer Compensation
For disabled RPCVs whose health needs are most severe, the legislation would raise the woefully inadequate worker's compensation level that some in our community struggle to survive on.
5. Sexual Assault
A Sexual Assault Advisory Council - established as part of the 2012 Kate Puzey Act, would be extended through 2023 to provide ongoing review and guidance in supporting Peace Corps sexual assault survivors.
6. Agency Involvement
This bi-partisan legislation has been prepared with significant input from the Peace Corps. Most of the key provisions have been supported by Peace Corps leadership.
7. Tracking the Numbers
A new addition to this legislation - recommending further surveys of RPCVs on how their service-related health needs are being met - can help identify further health care challenges and improvements.
8. If Not Us, Who?
When it comes to wounded members of our military, there are literally thousands of organizations established to address and support their needs. This is not the case with Peace Corps Volunteers, RPCVs and their family members who often struggle in silence. If we don't stand up for them, who will?
While health legislation will not address every need of every current/returned volunteer dealing with service related issues, passage can address many key issues, provide many improvements, and continue to chart a pathway forward. If you want to improve heath care for current and returned volunteers, visit National Health Justice Awareness Day or click the button below:
We are heading to Capitol Hill June 22nd to support Peace Corps health legislation. see more
As the National Peace Corps Association prepares for its third annual Health Justice Awareness Day on June 22nd, a key component of the day will involve Capitol Hill.
With new Peace Corps health legislation introduced in the House of Representatives, and similar legislation anticipated in the Senate in the future, we are preparing for Capitol Hill advocacy on this legislation on the afternoon of June 22nd.
Registration for our Capitol Hill advocacy day is now underway. If you plan to join us, follow this link to register.
The deadline to register will be Sunday, June 18th.
Follow this link to read the legislation (H.R. 2599).
Follow this link to urge your Congressman/woman to co-sponsor this legislation.
Support NPCA advocacy efforts with your donation here!
Photo: Congressman David Young (R-IA), pictured here meeting with NPCA advocates this past March, co-sponsored Peace Corps health legislation in 2016.