written by Eric Katz in Goverment Executive
November 20, 2012
Peace Corps volunteer Megan Chandler worked with a women’s cooperative in Uganda from 2003 to 2006 on health education.
As required by the Federal Employee Compensation Act, volunteers who serve abroad as part of the Peace Corps are entitled to reimbursement for health care costs resulting from service-related illnesses. Labor oversees FECA applications and payments, while the Peace Corps is responsible for informing returning volunteers they are eligible for the benefits.
The Government Accountability Office report said the two agencies are failing to monitor and inform volunteers on the documents needed and application requirements to apply for the benefits. Labor is not tracking how long it is taking to review applications and provide reimbursements, nor is it assessing the availability of FECA-registered health care providers.
GAO recommended the Labor secretary and Peace Corps director work together to come up with a comprehensive plan to ensure all available information is being utilized to improve the FECA program for volunteers. The auditors said neither agency has all the information it needs on its own, so they must work together to monitor the program’s efficiency.
“Because both of the agencies have certain responsibilities related to the provision of FECA benefits for eligible volunteers who return from service abroad,” GAO wrote in its report, “it is especially important that the Peace Corps and DoL jointly monitor the accessibility and quality of the FECA program to ensure that the FECA program is achieving its intended objectives.”
Labor provides FECA benefits to about 1,400 Peace Corps volunteers each year, paying the average recipient about $5,000 in reimbursements. GAO said returning volunteers often require medical attention because of the nature of their work.
“The volunteers are a unique population compared to others who receive benefits under FECA,” the auditors wrote. “For example, they are more likely to have mental, emotional, or nervous conditions that are service-connected.”
In responding to the report, neither agency indicated whether it agreed with GAO’s recommendation. Want to contribute to this story? Share your addition in comments.Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis – Sign up for Gov Exec’s email newsletters.