This is from Nancy Tongue (Chile 1980-82) director of Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers, an RPCV who has led the fight for better medical treatment of RPCVs.
This is her latest campaign and she needs our help.
We are desperately trying to get bills passed in both the House and the Senate. So many RPCVs are living in squalor with illnesses and injures that they can’t get help for.
It is imperative that a call go out to folks to write to their Reps NOW, or we will lose any opportunity to get what we need on the bill. Can you please post this?
We are asking people to do this SIMPLE TASK THAT WILL TAKE 3 MINUTES:
Copy and paste in the letter below or change it however you’d like.
Then: Send a message to your Congressperson asking for co-sponsorship for H.R. 2259. Please remove the email that is in the box and cut and paste in the one below.
Nancy Tongue (Chile 1980-82)
I am kindly writing to ask you to Co-Sponsor H.R. 2259 – The Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act. PERSON YOU KNOW or other RPCV/PCV has been suffering from a Peace Corps service-related illness for three decades without sufficient support from either the Peace Corps or the US Department, which adjudicates claims for the Peace Corps. The USDOL is in no way an appropriate agency to oversee the care for overseas complex health issues.
Why support this legislation?
- More than 220,000 citizens have answered the call to service as Peace Corps Volunteers. More than 7,000 citizens are currently serving in 65 countries.
- Thousands of Peace Corps Volunteers confront service-related illnesses, injuries or medical needs at the completion of their service.
- A 2012 study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that between 2009 and 2011, approximately 1,400 Volunteers each year received health care benefits under the Department of Labor’s Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) program. Yet GAO reports state that at least 1/3 of all Peace Corps Volunteer service results in illness or injuries.
- A 2015 report by Peace Corps’ Post-Service Healthcare Task Force acknowledged the frustrations of many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who have struggled – in some cases for decades – in getting their health service issues resolved.
- The Peace Corps, the Congress and our nation has a responsibility to support the health needs of individuals who served our nation with distinction yet struggle with service-related illness or injuries.
Key provisions of H.R. 2259
- Continuity of Care:To better address short-term health needs of returning Peace Corps Volunteers, H.R. 2259 would extend Peace Corps’ role in treatment of service related health issues for six-months upon service completion.
- Enhanced Workers’ Compensation:For current and future Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) eligible for Worker’s Compensation, H.R. 2259 would increase compensation by basing the rate to a GS–11 government pay scale, up from the current GS-7 rate.
- In-Country Medical Care: The legislation codifies key criteria in the hiring of Peace Corps Medical Officers and adequate medical staffing at posts.
- Malaria Prophylaxis: For Peace Corps Invitees who will serve in malaria countries and choose to use the controversial prophylaxis mefloquine, the legislation allows for the distribution of a trial prescription to be started before leaving the U.S.
- Supporting Survivors of Sexual Assault: The legislation would re-authorize several key provisions of the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act through 2023.
- Data Gathering: The legislation would establish an annual report and expand surveys on Volunteer/RPCV access to health care benefits.
The right thing to do
- The Peace Corps regularly notes that the health, safety and security of Volunteers remain the agency’s highest priorities. This priority is clearly outlined in Peace Corps’ budget justification to Congress for Fiscal Year 2018.
- This commitment similarly must extend to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who return home with Peace Corps service related illness, injuries or other medical needs.
- Peace Corps Volunteers serve our nation with honor and distinction. Service in the Peace Corps is challenging. More than 300 Peace Corps Volunteers lost their lives in service to our country. As with others who serve our nation, we have a responsibility to support our Peace Corps Volunteers during service and when they come home.
- The current workers’ compensation rate for RPCVs is inadequate. In general, an RPCV who is single with no dependents receives an annual living compensation of less than $25,000. The proposed increase would provide additional compensation of approximately $10,000 annually. As those in our community who face the most serious health challenges, these individuals especially need our support.
The smart thing to do
Many of the provisions in H.R. 2259 are not only the right thing to do, they are sensible steps that can lead to significant improvements. For example:
- Allowing Peace Corps to be involved in the treatment of RPCVs for up to six months upon their close of service will likely result in a continuity and completion of care for RPCVs coming home with short-term medical needs, and not subject them to the added communications and paperwork challenges of dealing with an additional federal agency.
- Implementing a system through which Peace Corps Invitees who wish to, can begin taking the anti-malarial mefloquine before beginning their service overseas, follows the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control.
- Ensuring adequate medical staffing and qualifications for overseas medical staff will lead to improved and preventative healthcare for serving volunteers.
- The extension of key elements of the Kate Puzey Act, including the Office of Victims Advocacy and the Sexual Assault Advisory Council will continue to advance improved support for Volunteers dealing with sexual assault or other forms of violence.
- The collection and analysis of additional data that would monitor Volunteer and RPCV satisfaction with and ability to access healthcare will allow the Peace Corps, the Labor Department and Congress to further assess progress with Volunteer/RPCV health needs.
- Peace Corps is currently responsible for all health-related costs. Services to RPCVs through the Labor Department’s FECA program are eventually billed to the Peace Corps for reimbursement. In this regard, there are no costs associated with H.R. 2259.
- However, some of the provisions in this legislation will come with a cost. For example, increasing the workers’ compensation level for RPCVs from GS-7 to GS-11 may cost an additional $2.5 million per year.
- Peace Corps regularly references the priority of care for volunteers. Additionally, the most recent Peace Corps Director stated that the agency would absorb added costs into its budget. Committing funding to cover health care costs demonstrates that volunteer health is indeed a priority.
- While the Peace Corps community regularly advocates on the importance of increased funding to adequately resource the agency, that decision ultimately rests with Congress through its appropriations process.
Peace Corps improvements
Peace Corps has worked diligently on and expressed support for key provisions of H.R. 2259. It’s FY 2018 budget justification outlines other efforts to improve healthcare.
- The agency used significant resources to digitize medical records, saying this electronic medical records system, “which has given medical staff secure access to Volunteer medical records worldwide, streamlined recordkeeping, and allowed health-care providers to spend more time with Volunteers and less time on paperwork.”
- The agency reports full implementation of the more than 30 policy changes outlined through the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011.
- Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) is the lead sponsor of H.R. 2259. RPCV Congressman Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA) is an original co-sponsor of the legislation.
- In the previous Congress, eight Republicans and 37 Democrats co-sponsored similar legislation introduced by Congressman Poe.
- The Peace Corps has always enjoyed strong bi-partisan support. There can be nothing more important than strong bi-partisan support for legislation to safeguard the health of Volunteers and RPCVs dealing with service-related health needs.
What about Senate legislation and Senate meetings?
- Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) is expected to introduce similar Peace Corps health legislation very soon.
- We have not seen the text of Senate legislation, and are not yet in a position to comment on it.
- We have included in Senate packets a copy of H.R. 2259.You can note the positive provisions in the House legislation and state that you hope the Senate legislation will also include these provisions.
This bill is important for so many who have served our country and have suffered terribly.
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