Peace Corps health legislation

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    A 2018 legislative priority for NPCA and the Peace Corps community is now law. see more

    Earlier today, the White House announced President Trump signed into law the Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018.

    Passed unanimously by the Senate and House of Representatives, this law is designed to provide a number of improvements to Peace Corps operations, including mandating strengthened criteria in the hiring of overseas medical personnel, reauthorization and new provisions to further address agency actions to support volunteers victimized by sexual assault or other forms of violence, and further transparency to assist individuals in making informed decisions about their preferences for Peace Corps service.

    "I want to thank the president for signing this important legislation that will improve the safety and well-being for current and future Peace Corps Volunteers," said NPCA President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst. "While there is more work that remains to bring about further reforms, this bi-partisan law is a strong step forward."

    Follow this link for more details about this new law, contained in a post following Senate passage of the legislation on September 24th.

     

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Bill named after former RPCV Congressman and PCV who died in service passes unanimously see more

    Monday evening, the United States Senate - on a unanimous voice vote - gave final congressional approval to legislation aimed at further reforming Peace Corps health and safety legislation.

    The legislation now heads to President Trump for his signature.

    Back in July, the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 2259, "The Sam Farr, Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act," bringing together various components of earlier bills put forward in the House by Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX) and Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA), and in the Senate by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

    "The congressional champions of H.R. 2259 worked with steadfast commitment to pass this legislation", said Glenn Blumhorst, President and CEO of the National Peace Corps Association. "We are grateful for their bi-partisan and bi-cameral efforts to make sure the important provisions in this bill are on their way to the president for his signature."

    Read this press release from Senator Corker, following last night's Senate vote.

    Read this press release from Congressman Poe.

    Follow this link to read the final version of the legislation.

    "Passage of this legislation was not easy and did not come about without significant compromise and some disappointment," said Blumhorst. "However, the end product provides a number of critical reforms that will increase transparency for applicants seeking Peace Corps assignments, strengthen the qualifications of overseas health care personnel, and continue to ensure attention and support for Peace Corps survivors of sexual assault or other forms of violence."

    "We are grateful to the NPCA affiliate Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers (HJPCV) for their tireless, longstanding advocacy to advance health improvements for the Peace Corps community. We are equally grateful to Sue and Dave Castle, whose Peace Corps son Nick gave the ultimate sacrifice, for converting their deep despair into determined advocacy to make sure future volunteers don't succumb to failures in the delivery of timely health care to volunteers. These leaders were backed up by several thousand Peace Corps community members who called, wrote or visited their lawmakers to urge passage of this bill."

    In Senator Corker's press release, Sue and Dave Castle said they hope this legislation will make changes to in-service health care so other families won't face a similar fate. "Nick wanted to make a difference in this world, but he didn't have time to do that. We hope with the passing of this legislation that he can make a true lasting impact on the Peace Corps.”

    Leaders of HJPCV issued the following  statement: "Representative Poe and his team drafted a terrific initial piece of legislation to assist those of us that come back from our service to our country sick or injured. Granted, it was a baby step in rectifying our access to adequate care, but we are grateful for the opportunity to share our stories and struggles on the Hill. After lobbying for nearly a year and a half, the Senate passed a watered down version of the original legislation that Poe and his team had spent years on. While the final legislation still lacks key provisions including an increase in the disability wage level that Representative Poe regretted was not included, we’re so thankful to him and his team for bringing our issues to light and for hearing and believing us. The fight isn’t over, but today we celebrate the small victory that is HR 2259, and hope the president will sign it into law." 

     

     

     

     

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Legislation heads back to Senate for further consideration. see more

    With praise for the mission of the Peace Corps and the work of its volunteers, and acknowledgement that more needs to be done to improve volunteer health care, safety and security, the House of Representatives unanimously passed Peace Corps health/safety legislation (H.R. 2259) late Tuesday afternoon.

    The revised House bill, renamed the "Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018", now goes back to the United States Senate for further consideration. Earlier this year, Senators unanimously passed its version of the legislation (S. 2286) introduced by Bob Corker (R-TN) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). The Senate can either approve the House version of the legislation and send it on to the president, or negotiate with the House on a final compromise bill, in order to address several issues where differences remain.

    A CRUCIAL STEP

    Speaking on the House floor, the sponsor of H.R. 2259, Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) noted that he, like many members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), try to meet with volunteers when traveling overseas. "One thing is universally true," he said. "They love being a Peace Corps Volunteer." Congressman Poe added that over the years when he has met volunteers who share stories of when the agency or other parts of the federal bureaucracy let them down and bad things happen, those volunteers would make clear and still speak of their love for the Peace Corps. 

    But Poe also emphasized more needs to be done to assist volunteers - who he often refers to as "America's Angels Abroad." During his floor remarks, the congressman reflected on the experiences and ongoing challenges of RPCVs Jennifer Mamola and Sara Thompson, who along with founder Nancy Tongue are leaders of the affiliate group Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers, which has led efforts for years to bring attention to the needs of returning volunteers who come home injured or sick. He also reflected on the death of China volunteer Nick Castle, who fell ill and did not get adequate medical attention (Nick's parents Sue and Dave have also been leading advocates in advancing the legislation). In noting he has heard too many stories of volunteers struggling to get needed care, Poe emphasized that "Our government should work to help the Peace Corps Volunteers."

    Similar sentiments were expressed on the other side of the aisle. RPCV Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-MA), the lead co-sponsor of H.R. 2259, spoke of the friendship he received from people who did not know him nearly fifteen years ago as he began his Peace Corps service in the Dominican Republic, while also recognizing the "extraordinary generosity of spirit" volunteers bring to countries around the world. The Ranking member of the HFAC, Eliot Engle (D-NY) said volunteers "show our values, generosity and compassion" to the world, adding that "we must do what we can to keep our current volunteers safe."

    BILL BACKGROUND

    Both bills will strengthen the criteria in Peace Corps' selection of overseas medical staff, re-authorize important provisions of the 2011 Kate Puzey Act which established an Office of Victim Advocacy and Sexual Assault Advisory Council, advance additional reporting - and more transparency - on the experiences of serving and returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), and extend existing health care coverage for service related injuries to four months for RPCVs. Read this press release from Congressman Poe.

    NPCA supports final passage of the House version of the bill, which in several instances has stronger, more impactful language to protect and support those volunteers who are applying for and serving with the Peace Corps. 

    In securing unanimous passage in both chambers, key provisions to further address the health needs of RPCVs who come home with service related health issues were removed from the legislation, due to cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and/or jurisdictional issues with other legislative committees.

    TAKE ACTION NOW:

    With only a few months of legislative business remaining in the current session of Congress, it is important that you let lawmakers know the time has come for final passage of these bills.

    Follow this link and write to your members of Congress, urging final passage of Peace Corps health/safety legislation and adoption of the House version of the bill, while also noting more work needs to be done in the future to address the needs of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who come home with service related illnesses or injuries.

     

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    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.

     

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    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.

     

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passes Nick Castle Reform Act see more

    On the five-year anniversary of the death of Nick Castle, a Peace Corps Volunteer who served in China, legislation named in his memory took a step closer to passage in the United States Senate.

     

    Yesterday, the Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2017 (S. 2286) was approved unanimously by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The legislation outlines key parameters to ensure the agency hires well-qualified personnel capable of administering effective health care services for volunteers, and calls upon the agency to complete all open recommendations from a 2016 Inspector General Assessment on medical care. The legislation also includes provisions that extend key elements of volunteer safety legislation (passed in 2011) to address sexual assault and other acts of violence against volunteers, and proposes further reforms to address matters related to sexual assault. Additionally, the legislation extends existing health care coverage for service-related injuries four months after volunteers complete their service, and requires public disclosure of volunteer satisfaction surveys and early termination rates.

     

    "I am always inspired by young people, like Nick Castle, who dedicate themselves to making a difference early in life," said Bob Corker (R-TN), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in a press release following the vote. "Nick exemplified the extraordinary commitment of Peace Corps volunteers who devote 2 - 3 years in service to our country. They deserve the very best support we can provide...As this bill advances to the full Senate, I am encouraged by the strong bipartisan support for our efforts to strengthen the Peace Corps and honor Nick Castle's memory."

     

    House Legislation

    Similar Peace Corps health and safety legislation is also in the House of Representatives. Introduced by Congressmen Ted Poe (R-TX) and Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA), the Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act (H.R. 2259), contains many provisions similar to the Senate legislation, as well as additional provisions related to volunteers returning home with service related illness or injuries. Earlier this week, Congressmen John Yarmuth (D-KY), Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Sean Maloney (D-NY) became the latest co-sponsors of H.R. 2259, bringing the total number of co-sponsors to 52.

     

    Taking Action

    NPCA is supporting both versions of this legislation, urging the Senate and House to pass their bills and come together to approve the strongest final bill possible.

    Senate and House safety/health legislation will be part of NPCA's National Days of Action in March, which will kick off on March 1 with the Capitol Hill Day of Action.

    Join us. Take action now! Urge your lawmakers to co-sponsor this important Peace Corps legislation.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Unanimous Senate approval of legislation comes as House continues its work see more

    Peace Corps health and safety legislation took another step closer to becoming law on Tuesday.

    The Senate unanimously passed S. 2286, the Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018.

    Castle, a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in China, died in service in 2013. A 2014 Peace Corps Inspector General report found that a misdiagnosis of early symptoms and “cascading failures and delays in treatment” contributed to his death.

    “Nick exemplified the extraordinary commitment of Peace Corps volunteers who devote 2-3 years in service to our country,” said Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), the sponsor of the legislation. “They deserve the very best support we can provide. Our bill will expand oversight and accountability at the Peace Corps while improving the care our volunteers receive overseas and for service-related injuries when they return home. Following unanimous passage of this legislation in the Senate, I am encouraged by continued progress in our efforts to strengthen the Peace Corps and honor Nick Castle’s memory.”

    In the House of Representatives, similar legislation introduced by Congressmen Ted Poe (R-TX) and Joe Kennedy (D-MA) has 54 co-sponsors and awaits further action by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The House bill - H.R. 2259 - contains very similar provisions related to in-service health care and continued/expanded support and reforms pertaining to sexual assault. H.R. 2259 also contains additional support for returned volunteers with service related health issues, including a proposed increase in worker’s compensation payments for RPCVs who come home with the most serious health challenges.