Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers

  • *Jonathan Pearson* posted an article
    Both chambers of Congress now have Peace Corps health legislation see more

    On the day in which fallen Peace Corps volunteer Nick Castle would have celebrated his 28th birthday, legislation has been introduced in the United States Senate to address a series of issues related to the health and safety of Volunteers.

    The Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 (S. 2286) was introduced Wednesday, January 10th by Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Other lead sponsors include Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chris Coons (D-DE).

    Nick Castle died while serving in China in 2013. A November 2014 report on the death by the Peace Corps Office of Inspector General cited poor judgement and misdiagnosis by the Peace Corps Medical Officer, as well as "cascading failures and delays in treatment."

     

    About the Legislation

    Provisions in the Corker legislation would ensure that "the Peace Corps maintains well-qualified and capable medical officers and support staff for overseas Peace Corps posts and that the Director reviews and evaluates the performance of such staff and implements outstanding recommendations by the Inspector General to improve associated systems and programs."

    Another key provision would allow Peace Corps to be fully involved in the diagnosis, treatment and support of returning Volunteers with service related illness or injuries for a four-month period following their completion of service. Currently, volunteers who come home with service-related health issues are swiftly referred to the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) for benefits provided under the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA).

    Along with requiring public disclosure of volunteer satisfaction surveys and other reporting requirements, the legislation would also promote further reforms and extend key initiatives pertaining to sexual assault and other acts of violence against volunteers. This includes a re-authorization of the Peace Corps Office of Victim Advocacy and the agency's Sexual Assault Advisory Council. 

    Click here for a copy of the legislation.

    Click here for Senator Corker's press release.

     

    House Legislation

    Meanwhile, Peace Corps health legislation in the House of Representatives (H.R. 2259) introduced last May by Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and returned Peace Corps Volunteer Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA) has a bi-partisan list of nearly 50 co-sponsors.

    Along with the most provisions outlined above, the House legislation also includes an important proposal for volunteers who served their country but came home with service-related injuries or illness that rendered them temporarily or permanently disabled. The legislation proposes raising the worker's compensation payments for these individuals. This has been a priority issue of the affiliate group Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers, which has led efforts and worked tirelessly for years on efforts to provide relief for those in our community who struggle most in the aftermath of their service. However, questions have arisen about the ability to sustain this provision in accordance with House rules on entitlement spending.

     

    Forward Motion

    "While the content and presentation of the Senate and House Peace Corps health bills have significant differences, we are grateful that Senator Corker, Congressman Poe and other lead sponsors have introduced legislation to keep us moving forward," said NPCA President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst. "Taken together, both bills contain improvements, reforms and re-authorizations that are important to various members of our community. We look forward to continued progress with Senate and House sponsors, and urge them to work collaboratively so we can come away with the best possible legislation to support our Volunteers and respect their sacrifices in serving our country."

     

    Take Action

    Call your Senators and ask them to support and advance S. 2286, Peace Corps health legislation introduced by Senator Corker.

    If your Congressman/woman has not yet co-sponsored H.R. 2259, take action here.

     

  • JM Ascienzo posted an article
    On Capitol Hill, new legislation is introduced to address key RPCV service related health issues see more

    Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX) and Sam Farr (D-CA) introduced Peace Corps healthcare legislation earlier today that would provide Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) with service-related conditions greater healthcare, including an increase in worker's compensation benefits and extending the length of time they remain under Peace Corps' care. The bipartisan Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act (H.R. 6037) also reauthorizes key provisions of the Kate Puzey Act, including the extension of the Office of Victim Advocacy to care for survivors of sexual assault, and the extension of Peace Corps' Sexual Assault Advisory Council to 2023.

    Through a press release on his website Rep. Poe said, “Congress took a historic step in passing the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act in 2011, but there is more work to be done to protect our angels abroad...This bill will go even further to both keep volunteers healthy and ensure that those who have experienced sexual assault have the assistance and protection they need. These safeguards are necessary not only to protect current volunteers, but also to ensure more young Americans join the Peace Corps in the future.”

    “Since its establishment in 1961, Peace Corps has served as a vehicle for peace, hope and compassion,” said Rep. Farr. “I’m deeply humbled to have Judge Poe, a strong advocate for Peace Corps Volunteers in his own right, name this bill after me and I’m honored to cosponsor it. Expanding, promoting and improving Peace Corps has been a passion of mine since serving in Colombia from 1964-1966 and I look forward to using my remaining few months in Congress to continue this important mission.”

    Other provisions in the legislation attempt to strengthen anti-malarial protections for currently serving volunteers, strengthen the number and training requirements for Peace Corps Medical Officers, removes the Peace Corps five-year rule from certain management support positions, and requires further publication requirements for the annual volunteer satisfaction survey.

    Several of the key RPCV health provisions in the legislation have been advocated by Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers, an NPCA affiliate group established several years ago to raise more awareness and support for RPCVs facing health challenges stemming from their Peace Corps service.

    Health legislation, as well as strong funding for the Peace Corps, will be key issues raised during NPCA's Capitol Hill Advocacy Day on Thursday, September 22. 

    Follow this link to read a summary of H.R. 6037. 

    Follow this link to read the legislation.

    Follow this link to add your support for Peace Corps funding and health legislation in advance of NPCA's Capitol Hill advocacy day.