WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.) today introduced 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 would have turned 28 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 who actively seek ways to make a difference early in life," said Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Peace Corps volunteers like Nick Castle, who spend 2-3 years overseas on behalf of our country, embody public service, and they deserve the very best support we can provide. This legislation not only provides much-needed oversight and accountability, but also will improve the care our volunteers receive while abroad and for service-related injuries when they return home. I look forward to advancing this bill in our committee very soon and hope to receive strong bipartisan support for our efforts to strengthen the Peace Corps."
“No parent should have to endure the loss of their child due to inadequate health care,” said Feinstein. “In the face of their own loss, the Castles have pushed for reforms that will ensure future Peace Corps volunteers receive the best medical care possible. I’m proud to work with them and Senator Corker on this bill to honor Nick’s service. Our bill requires the Peace Corps to review and evaluate all medical staff, gives the inspector general new authorities to investigate volunteer deaths and allows the Peace Corps to provide continued care to returned volunteers for up to six months. I’m hopeful that Congress will quickly pass these overdue and common-sense reforms to let the Castles know Nick’s passing won’t be forgotten.”
“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.”
“Peace Corps volunteers like Nick Castle support communities around the world,” said Coons. “I’m proud to work with Senators Corker, Feinstein, and Isakson to ensure that the U.S. government does its part to keep our volunteers safe, and to hold leadership of the agency accountable for their welfare. This bill will give volunteers access to the care they need as they promote peace and friendship abroad.”
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 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
· 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