WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and Congressman Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) introduced the bipartisan Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act (H.R. 2259) to improve the health, safety and well-being of current and returned Peace Corps volunteers.
Peace Corps volunteers represent what is best about America. They give years of their lives to help others whom they have never met, building goodwill across the globe for the United States.
After Nick Castle, a 23-year-old Peace Corps volunteer teaching in rural China, fell violently ill in January 2013, no one recognized the severity of his symptoms and he passed away. A 2014 Peace Corps Inspector General report found that Nick was the victim of medical negligence and exposed “failures and delays in treatment” that ultimately led to his death.
“After Nick’s death, it became clear that the Peace Corps staff was not properly trained or equipped and failed to respond,” said Congressman Ted Poe. “When young American Peace Core volunteers head overseas, they must know that the U.S. government has their back. In 2011, Congress took a historic step in passing the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act, but there is more work to be done. This bill will go even further to both keep volunteers healthy and to ensure that those who have experienced sexual assault have the assistance and protection that they need.”
“Wearing the Peace Corps badge around the world, volunteers export the shared values that make us strong and leave a positive impact that remains long after they return home,” said Congressman Joe Kennedy III. “With the bipartisan Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act, we will not only support and protect current volunteers, but extend their reach into vulnerable communities and countries. I am deeply grateful to my colleague, Congressman Ted Poe, for his continued advocacy for an organization so near and dear to my heart.”
In recent years, the Peace Corps has made many good-faith efforts to reform its operations, improve its efficiency, and increase support for volunteers in the field. However, more remains to be done to improve health care for both currently serving and returned volunteers. For example, due to restrictions in current law, the Peace Corps cannot comply with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding how it administers anti-malaria medication to volunteers. Also, returned volunteers who go through the Department of Labor to get treatment have trouble getting the care they need.
More specifically, the Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act:
• Requires that Peace Corps volunteers have access to a qualified Peace Corps Medical Officer and medical facilities while they are at post;
• Enhances access to health care for returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs) by extending Peace Corps medical coverage from 3 months to 6 months while they wait for coverage through the Department of Labor to take effect;
• Expands and improves provisions of the Kate Puzey Peace Corps' Volunteer Protection Act to enhance the Peace Corps’ ability to assist and protect volunteers that have experienced sexual assault;
• Increases disability payments for RPCVs that are disabled and unable to work due to service-related conditions; and
• Provides further reforms to improve oversight, management and efficiency of the Peace Corps.