Senator Bob Corker praised unanimous Senate 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 five years ago last month.
Cosponsors 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.), and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).
“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.”
Senator Corker said, “I am always inspired by young people, like Nick Castle, who dedicate themselves to making a difference early in life. 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. Following unanimous passage of this legislation in the Senate, I am encouraged by continued progress in our efforts to strengthen the Peace Corps and honor Nick Castle’s memory.”
The act 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