February 07, 2018

Senators Praise Committee Passage of Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018

Legislation Named in Honor of Peace Corps Volunteer Who Died While Serving in China in 2013

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.) today praised Senate Foreign Relations Committee passage of legislation to reform the Peace Corps. The Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 would improve access to medical care for volunteers, strengthen accountability and oversight, and enhance procedures to reduce the risk of crime in the countries in which volunteers serve. The legislation is named in honor of Nick Castle, of Brentwood, Calif., who lost his life at age 23 due to inadequate health care while serving in China in 2013. It was later determined by the inspector general that flaws in medical care and the response to his illness contributed to his death. Nick passed away 5 years ago today.

“Very simple steps would have saved Nick’s life," said Sue and David Castle, the parents of Nick Castle. “As parents, we have worked for legislation to ensure this never happens to another family, and we believe this legislation will make the changes that are needed. 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.”

“I am always inspired by young people, like Nick Castle, who dedicate themselves to making a difference early in life,” said Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “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. 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. 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.”

 

“Peace Corps volunteers like Nick Castle represent the finest our country has to offer,” said Feinstein. “They deserve the best health care possible while serving our country abroad and after returning home, and our bill ensures they receive it.”

“I have long been a supporter of the work Peace Corps volunteers accomplish in communities worldwide,” said Isakson. “Their goodwill offers results for the direct beneficiaries of their labor and for the United States, too. This legislation provides additional measures to ensure greater protection and safety for our volunteers. Today, February 7, is the fifth anniversary of Nick’s passing. I am proud of the bipartisan work that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has done to make this bill a reality. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to act on this bipartisan legislation without delay.”

“Peace Corps volunteers like Nick Castle share American values with the rest of the world, often in remote, isolated places,” said Coons. “I am pleased to see this bill advance to the full Senate with broad bipartisan support, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure we keep Peace Corps volunteers safe, and to hold leadership of the agency accountable for their welfare.”

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 requires subsequent reports to Congress
  • Extends existing health care coverage for service-related injuries four 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
  • 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 Enhancements:

  • Requires the director to make evidence and information regarding a volunteers’ 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
  • Extends and enhances expiring programs, first authorized by the Kate Puzey Act, that provide services to volunteers who have been a victim of sexual assault

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