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Corker: Peace Corps Reform Bill to Become Law

Legislation Named in Honor of Former Peace Corps Volunteers Sam Farr and Nick Castle

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today praised passage of Peace Corps reform legislation he authored in the Senate, which will now be sent to the president’s desk to be signed into law. The Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 will 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 former Peace Corps volunteers Sam Farr, a retired Democratic congressman, and Nick Castle, of Brentwood, California, 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. Cosponsors of the Senate version of the bill include Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

“Nick Castle was an inspirational person who dedicated himself to making a difference early in life,” said Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Peace Corps volunteers make an extraordinary commitment to serve their country and deserve the very best support we can provide. Our legislation 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. I am encouraged that with these reforms now to become law, we will strengthen the Peace Corps in Nick Castle’s memory.”

“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.”

The Sam Farr and 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