New law strengthens health and safety for Peace Corps volunteers

President Donald J. Trump signed into law new legislation that seeks to improve access to medical care for Peace Corps volunteers, strengthen accountability and oversight and enhance procedures to reduce the risk of crime in the countries where volunteers serve. The bill was passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate on September 24 after passing the House on July 10. 

“We are deeply grateful to all those who have championed this important legislation – from the family of Nick Castle to leaders in the U.S. Congress, including Senator Bob Corker, Senator Johnny Isakson, Congressman Ted Poe and Congressman Joe Kennedy III,” said Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen. “Their leadership has made a positive impact on the Peace Corps by helping institutionalize higher standards for volunteer health, safety and security. This bill will codify best practices to help keep volunteers safe and hold the agency accountable to taxpayers and Congress.”

The Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 is named in memory of Nick Castle, of Brentwood, Calif., who passed away at age 23 while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in China. The legislation also honors former Congressman Sam Farr, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia in the 1960s.

The Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 contains the following key provisions: 

Peace Corps volunteer support:

  • Provides the director the authority necessary to appropriately review and evaluate the performance of all current medical staff;
  • Requires the director to implement recommendations made by the Peace Corps Office of Inspector General and report progress to Congress; and
  • Extends existing health care coverage for service-related injuries through three months after volunteers return from service.

Peace Corps oversight and accountability:

  • Requires public disclosure of the results of volunteer surveys on satisfaction in each country in which volunteers serve, as well as the early termination rate;
  • Provides volunteers with direct access to the inspector general; and
  • Requires the director to notify Congress of the opening or closure of offices and country programs.

Crime risk reduction:

  • Permanently authorizes the Office of Victim Advocacy, first authorized by the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act;
  • Requires the director make evidence and information regarding a volunteer’s death available to the inspector general in order to facilitate an independent review of such incidents; and
  • Extends and enhances other expiring programs, first authorized by the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act, that provide services to volunteers who have been victims of sexual assault.

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About the Peace Corps: The Peace Corps sends Americans with a passion for service abroad on behalf of the United States to work with communities and create lasting change. Volunteers develop sustainable solutions to address challenges in education, health, community economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development. Through their Peace Corps experience, volunteers gain a unique cultural understanding and a life-long commitment to service that positions them to succeed in today's global economy. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 230,000 Americans of all ages have served in 141 countries worldwide.

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