News Releases

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Isakson: Peace Corps Reforms Headed to President’s Desk

Legislation builds on Isakson’s previous ‘Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act’

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., praised the Senate’s unanimous passage of bipartisan legislation he introduced to reform the U.S. Peace Corps by improving access to medical care for volunteers, strengthening accountability and oversight, and enhancing procedures to reduce the risk of crime where volunteers serve. 

The legislation, H.R.2259, the Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018, builds on previous reforms made by Isakson’s Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act to further protect volunteers. It passed the U.S. House unanimously on July 10, and after passing the Senate by voice vote on Monday, Sept. 24, it now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law. 

“I appreciate my colleagues’ commitment to providing greater protection and safety for our Peace Corps volunteers whose work and goodwill produce results for both the communities they serve and the United States,” said Isakson. “I hold our Peace Corps volunteers in high regard, and I’m thankful that this legislation that honors the memory of Nick Castle has passed the Senate and will soon be signed into law.” 

The Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 is named in memory of Nick Castle, a 23-year-old Brentwood, Calif., volunteer who lost his life in 2013 while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in China. It was later determined by the inspector general that flaws in Castle’s medical care and in the response to his illness contributed to his death. The bill title also honors former U.S. Representative Sam Farr, who served as a congressman from California from 1993-2017 and was a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer for two years in Colombia in the 1960s. 

Isakson’s previous Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act was enacted into law in 2011 and was named after the 24-year-old Georgia woman who was murdered in 2009 while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin. Upon learning of Puzey’s death and the circumstances surrounding it, Isakson has long fought for the rights of Peace Corps volunteers and justice for Puzey and her family

Isakson introduced an earlier version of the legislation on Jan. 10, 2018, with U.S. Senators Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Chris Coons, D-Del. It passed the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations by voice vote on Feb. 7, 2018, as the Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018

The Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 was amended by the U.S. House and 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 report progress to Congress; and
  • Extends existing health care coverage for service-related injuries through 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; and
  • 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:

  • Requires the director make evidence and information regarding a volunteer’s 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;
  • Permanently authorizes the Office of Victim Advocacy, first authorized by the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act; and
  • Extends and enhances other expiring programs, first authorized by the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act, that provide services to volunteers who have been victims of sexual assault.