Text: H.R.2259 — 115th Congress (2017-2018)All Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in House (05/01/2017)


115th CONGRESS
1st Session
H. R. 2259


To amend the Peace Corps Act to expand services and benefits for volunteers, and for other purposes.


IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

May 1, 2017

Mr. Poe of Texas (for himself and Mr. Kennedy) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committees on Oversight and Government Reform, and Education and the Workforce, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned


A BILL

To amend the Peace Corps Act to expand services and benefits for volunteers, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Short title.

This Act may be cited as the “Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act”.

SEC. 2. Provisions for current and former volunteers of the peace corps.

(a) Enhanced compensation benefits.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Section 8142 of title 5, United States Code, is amended—

(A) in subsection (c)—

(i) in paragraph (1), by striking “GS–7” and inserting “GS–11”; and

(ii) by striking paragraph (2) and redesignating paragraphs (3) and (4) as paragraphs (2) and (3), respectively; and

(B) by adding at the end the following new subsection:

“(d) (1) The Director of the Peace Corps shall provide the initial furnishing of medical and other benefits under section 8103(b) of this title to any former volunteer for the 180-day period beginning on the date of termination of the service of such volunteer, to the extent that the Director determines that such benefits are given with respect to an injury that is probably compensable under this section (as such term is defined for purposes of section 8103(b)). The provision of such benefits may be authorized directly or by the certification of vouchers, in accordance with section 8103(b).

“(2) A volunteer may not be provided medical or other benefits pursuant to paragraph (1) unless the injury with respect to which such benefits would be provided was proximately caused by the employment of such volunteer under subsection (c)(2).

“(3) Notwithstanding the 180-day limitation period under paragraph (1), a volunteer may receive medical or other benefits provided pursuant to such paragraph with respect to an injury until the date on which the Secretary of Labor makes a final determination with respect to compensation for such injury under this section, if the volunteer applied for such compensation before the last day of such limitation period.

“(4) The Director shall consult with health experts outside the Peace Corps, including experts licensed in the field of mental health, in order to provide the best standard of care.

“(5) The provisions of section 8116(c) of this title regarding liability shall apply with respect to benefits provided to a former volunteer under this section in the same manner and to the same extent as such provisions apply with respect to benefits provided to an employee of the United States.”.

(2) APPLICABILITY.—The amendments made by paragraph (1)(A) shall apply with respect to any compensation paid pursuant to section 8142 of title 5, United States Code, on or after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(b) Health care for volunteers; criminal liability for acts against volunteers.—Section 5 of the Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2504) is amended—

(1) in subsection (e), by striking “receive such immunization and dental care preparatory to their service” and inserting “receive, preparatory to their service, such immunization and dental care, and (in accordance with subsection (o)) such trial prescriptions”;

(2) in subsection (h), by striking “section, and” and inserting “section), and”; and

(3) by adding at the end the following new subsections:

“(o) The Director of the Peace Corps may only prescribe mefloquine to a volunteer, including as a trial prescription to a volunteer who chooses to use such medication before departing the United States to a post, on an individual basis and in accordance with relevant recommendations or guidelines issued by the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Commissioner of Food and Drugs, after counseling such volunteer about the benefits, risks, and side effects of each available medication for the prophylaxis of malaria. The Director shall monitor the volunteer during the course of such prescription for the development of any side effects (or determine that the volunteer has been so monitored), evaluate the volunteer at the completion of such course for evidence of neuropsychiatric symptoms (or determine that the volunteer has been so evaluated), and report to the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Commissioner of Food and Drugs any such side effects or symptoms. A volunteer may only switch to the use of mefloquine from another drug for the prophylaxis of malaria while serving at a post if another medication for the prophylaxis of malaria is simultaneously provided to such volunteer in a manner that ensures continuous protection against malaria.

“(p) It is the policy of the United States to recognize the importance of Peace Corps volunteers and the core function that such volunteers play within the agency. The President should therefore prioritize the provision of health care services and necessary safety and security support for all volunteers.

“(q) (1) Whoever engages in conduct outside the United States against a volunteer that would constitute an offense under any section listed in paragraph (2) if the conduct had been engaged in within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States (as defined in section 7 of title 18, United States Code) shall be punished as provided for that offense.

“(2) The sections listed in this paragraph are sections 113, 1111, 1112, 1113, 1117 (to the extent that such section applies to section 1111), 1201, 2241, 2242, 2244, and 2261A of title 18, United States Code.

“(3) For purposes of this subsection, paragraph (9)(B) (regarding residences in foreign countries) of section 7 of title 18, United States Code, shall include the residences used by volunteers in foreign countries and the land appurtenant or ancillary thereto, irrespective of ownership.”.

SEC. 3. Provisions regarding employees of the peace corps.

Section 7 of the Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2506) is amended—

(1) in subsection (a)—

(A) in paragraph (5), by inserting “or paragraph (8)” after “paragraph (6)”; and

(B) by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

“(8) (A) The Director of the Peace Corps may designate a position as a ‘critical management position’ or a ‘critical management support position’ if the position requires specialized technical or professional skills and knowledge of Peace Corps operations, such as positions that involve volunteer health services, financial management, information technology, procurement, personnel, legal services, or safety or security.

“(B) Notwithstanding any limitation set forth in paragraph (2) and subject to subparagraph (C), an appointment or assignment to a critical management position or a critical management support position designated under subparagraph (A) of this paragraph and any extension of such appointment or assignment shall be for a term of not more than five years.

“(C) The Director shall ensure that any decision regarding an appointment, assignment, or extension of such appointment or assignment to a critical management position or a critical management support position shall be consistent with Peace Corps policies and based on operational and programmatic factors.”; and

(2) by adding at the end the following new subsection:

“(d) (1) (A) The President shall ensure that each overseas post has the services of a medical office that is consistent in size and scope with the needs of the Peace Corps at such post, including, if necessary, by detailing to any such post the licensed medical staff of other United States departments, agencies, or establishments.

“(B) An individual may be hired as a Peace Corps Medical Officer after consideration of the following criteria:

“(i) Medical training, experience, accreditations, and other qualifications.

“(ii) Administrative capabilities.

“(iii) Understanding of the local language and culture.

“(iv) Ability to work in the English language.

“(v) Interpersonal skills.

“(vi) Record of performance.

“(vii) Any other factors the Director of the Peace Corps determines appropriate.

“(2) The Director of the Peace Corps shall ensure that each Peace Corps Medical Officer serving in a malaria-endemic country receives training in the recognition of the side effects caused by the use of mefloquine and the data supporting the patient information handouts required by the Food and Drug Administration regarding mefloquine, including the potential capacity of the drug to cause permanent neuropsychiatric effects.”.

SEC. 4. Monitoring training records.

Section 8 of the Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2507) is amended—

(1) in subsection (a), by adding at the end the following new sentences: “As a part of such training, the President, in coordination with the Inspector General of the Peace Corps, shall provide each volunteer with information regarding the mandate of the Inspector General and the availability (including contact information) of the Inspector General as a resource for volunteers. The President shall provide such information at least once during training that occurs prior to enrollment and at least once during each significant instance of training after enrollment.”; and

(2) by adding at the end the following new subsection:

“(c) The President shall implement procedures to maintain a written record verifying the attendance of each individual completing training provided to meet each requirement in this section and sections 8A, 8B, 8F, and 8G(b).”.

SEC. 5. Additional disclosures to applicants for enrollment as volunteers.

Section 8A of the Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2507a) is amended—

(1) by amending subsection (d) to read as follows:

“(d) Information regarding crimes and risks.—Each applicant for enrollment as a volunteer shall be provided, with respect to the country in which the applicant has been invited to serve, with information regarding crimes against and risks to volunteers, including an overview of past crimes against volunteers in such country, the current early termination rate of volunteers serving in such country, any health risks prevalent in such country, and the level of satisfaction reported by volunteers serving in such country. Upon receiving such information, the applicant shall have the option to timely decline the invitation without retaliation and with priority to be invited to serve in a different country.”; and

(2) in subsection (f)(2)(B), in clause (iii), by striking “victim advocates” and inserting “Victim’s Advocates,”.

SEC. 6. Reporting requirements with respect to victims of sexual assault.

Paragraph (3) of section 8B(a) of the Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2507b(a)) is amended—

(1) by striking “SARLs” and inserting “any employee of the Peace Corps”; and

(2) by striking “Victim Advocate” and inserting “Victim’s Advocate”.

SEC. 7. Office of victim advocacy.

Section 8C of the Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2507c) is amended—

(1) by striking “victim advocate” in each place it appears and inserting “Victim’s Advocate”;

(2) by striking “victim advocates” in each place it appears and inserting “Victim’s Advocates”; and

(3) by striking subsection (e).

SEC. 8. Reform and extension of the sexual assault advisory council.

Section 8D of the Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2507d) is amended—

(1) in subsection (b)—

(A) by striking “not less than 8 individuals” and inserting “not fewer than 8 and not more than 14 individuals”;

(B) by inserting after the first sentence the following new sentence: “At least one member shall also be licensed in the field of mental health.”; and

(C) by adding at the end the following new sentence: “There shall be no limit to the number of terms an individual may serve as a member of the Council.”;

(2) in subsection (c)—

(A) by inserting “and the implementation of such policy” after “section 8B”; and

(B) by adding at the end the following new sentence: “To carry out the functions in this subsection, the Council shall conduct case reviews and shall have access, including through interviews or visits, to volunteers and staff in the field, to volunteer surveys under section 8E, to all data collected from restricted reporting, and to any other information necessary to conduct case reviews, except that the Council may not have access to any personally identifying information associated with such surveys or data.”; and

(3) in subsection (g), by striking “2018” and inserting “2023”.

SEC. 9. Publication requirement for volunteer surveys.

Section 8E of the Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2507e) is amended—

(1) in subsection (c)—

(A) in the first sentence, by striking “2018” and inserting “2023”;

(B) in the third sentence, by striking “subsection (a)” and inserting “subsection (b)”; and

(C) by adding at the end the following new sentences: “The President shall publish on a publicly available website of the Peace Corps the results of each survey related to volunteer satisfaction in each country in which volunteers serve, and the early termination rate of volunteers serving in each such country. The information published shall be posted in an easily accessible place near the description of the appropriate country and shall be written in an easily understood manner.”.

SEC. 10. Experts and consultants for the inspector general.

Section 13 of the Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2512) is amended—

(1) in subsection (a), by striking “Section” and inserting “section”; and

(2) by adding at the end the following new subsection:

“(c) An expert, consultant, or organization thereof employed pursuant to subsection (a) by the Inspector General of the Peace Corps may be compensated without regard to the daily equivalent of the highest rate payable under section 5332 of title 5, United States Code.”.

SEC. 11. Report and survey on volunteer access to health care benefits.

(a) Report.—Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act and annually thereafter for four years, the Director of the Peace Corps shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report including each of the following:

(1) The number of Peace Corps volunteers who returned to the United States in the prior year and whom the Director assisted in resolving difficulties in securing health care benefits through the Department of Labor (including difficulties in receiving health care services or reimbursement for such services).

(2) The date on which the Director was contacted by each such volunteer to request such assistance.

(3) If such difficulties were successfully resolved by the Director, the date of each such resolution.

(4) The average period of time that such resolution was pending, with respect to requests for such assistance in the prior year.

(5) The rate of satisfaction of such returned volunteers with the quality of such assistance.

(b) Survey.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act and annually thereafter, the Director shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report including the results of the survey described in paragraph (2).

(2) SCOPE OF SURVEY.—The survey described in this paragraph is an annual survey, provided to each former Peace Corps volunteer who accessed post-service health care provided by the Peace Corps, that assesses, with respect to such volunteers, each of the following:

(A) The level of awareness of the existence of the Federal Employees’ Compensation program and knowledge of the specific health care benefits associated with Peace Corps service that are available under the program.

(B) The level of awareness of the application requirements of the program, including eligibility requirements and the documentation that the Department of Labor requires before making a decision regarding benefits under the program.

(C) The level of satisfaction with the program, including the timeliness of processing applications and providing reimbursement for health and other benefits.

(D) The average time taken by the Secretary of Labor—

(i) to review and to approve or deny an application for benefits under the program; and

(ii) to provide a reimbursement for submitted medical claims.

(E) The ability to access medical providers using the benefits provided by the program.

(3) PAPERWORK REDUCTION ACT EXEMPTION.—The collection of data for purposes of a report submitted under paragraph (1) is not subject to the requirements of subchapter I of chapter 35 of title 44, United States Code (commonly referred to as the “Paperwork Reduction Act”).

(c) Appropriate congressional committees.—In this section, the term “appropriate congressional committees” means—

(1) the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives; and

(2) the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate.