Sen. Isakson Seeks Further Reforms of the Peace Corps

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., introduced bipartisan legislation to further reform the U.S. Peace Corps by improving access to medical care for volunteers, strengthening accountability and oversight, and enhancing procedures to reduce the risk of crime where volunteers serve.
The Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018, S.2286, would build on the progress of Isakson’s Kate Puzey Volunteer Protection Act that provided services to volunteers who have been victims of sexual assault. The Kate Puzey bill was enacted into law in 2011 and was named after the 24-year-old Georgia woman who was murdered in 2009 while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin.
The Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 is named in memory of the 23-year-old Brentwood, Calif., volunteer who lost his life in 2013 while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in China. It was later determined by the inspector general that flaws in Castle’s medical care and in the response to his illness contributed to his death. He taught university-level English classes during his Peace Corps service, and his birthday would have been today, January 10. Castle is survived by his parents and three brothers.
“The dedicated men and women of the U.S. Peace Corps work hard to help communities and foster goodwill around the world,” said Isakson. “These volunteers have long been near and dear to my heart, and I am heartbroken for the Castles after the death of their son, Nick. This legislation continues the reforms we began with the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act and offers greater oversight and accountability to help care for and protect our Peace Corps volunteers wherever they may be working around the world.”
Isakson introduced the legislation with U.S. Senators Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Chris Coons, D-Del.
The Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 contains the following key provisions.
Peace Corps volunteer support:

·         Ensures the Peace Corps hires well-qualified personnel capable of administering effective health care services for volunteers;

·         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 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:

·         Provides volunteers with direct access to the inspector general;

·         Requires the director to notify Congress of the opening or closure of offices and country programs; and

·         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.

Crime risk reduction:

·         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;

·         Maintains records verifying each individual has completed the training required by the Peace Corps Act;

·         Provides applicants with information regarding crimes and risks to volunteers in the country in which they are invited to serve; and

·         Extends and enhances 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.