Volunteer Rights Improved, but More is Needed

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Library: Peace Corps: Legislation : Legislation: June 21, 2004: Headlines: Legislation: Congress: PCOL Exclusive: A Critical Flaw in the Proposed Peace Corps Safety and Security Bill : Volunteer Rights Improved, but More is Needed

By VeteranVolunt (0-1pool200-194.nas28.somerville1.ma.us.da.qwest.net - on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - 11:47 pm: Edit Post

In general, we want to thank the advocates for the Ombudsman's office. It is not exactly what we are seeking but it is a step in the right direction and an acknowledgement by the American people that Peace Corps Volunteers are important members of our nation and community.

We want to thank Senator Coleman, Senator Dodd and Senator Voinivich. These are the members that were present in the hearings.

We thank Mr. Poirier and his family for their contribution.

We want to thank Tony Hall.

We also want to thank the NPCA for their support too.

We want to thank Chairman Hyde (and Peter Smith, his staff person) and the other committee members for their support.

Also, anybody else who was not mentioned who contributed to this enabling legislation.

We support these parts of the Senate Bill:

1. Ombudsman Office
2. Independent Inspector General Office

We also support:

We advocate for volunteers not represented by the Peace Corps or the National Peace Corps Association.

Peace Corps Veterans Rights and Recognition of Service:

We Need America to recognize the achievements of all Volunteers who have served Peace Corps including volunteers who have had safety and health issues in or during service.

We support the following provisions of the proposed Peace Corps Health, Safety, and Security bill:

1. Ombudsman Office We support this effort as an alternative and a start.

2. Independent Inspector General Office (Support this measure)

Here are the rights and needs that need to be continually worked on for Peace Corps future.

As former Volunteers and with Safety and Health issues and especially wrongfully separated volunteers. We want a congressionally funded office of General Counsel for Volunteers only. (Though we don't speak for families of loved one who have persished in service, and we understand their frustrations with the agency. We know there is "no where to go" to get help during or after service that advocates soley for volunteers rights as an American citizen)

We want an establishment of a lawyer's office for Volunteer rights in service and Post service. We want an advocate who is congressionally mandated for volunteers families who have been victims of crimes, safety incidents, and current and post service health issues with the agency they served. Additionally we want advocates who work with these lawyers to assist volunteers and families. These advocates would ensure the memory and service of a volunteer is respected with memorials for volunteers who have passed or considered, in an missing or unknown status. These advocates would assist current and former volunteers with their rights under the laws of the agency and the United States government that a volunteer is guaranteed their rights post peace corps service with regards to health, safety and contested separation issues. These advocates would also assist in finding former volunteers with domestic violence and rape counseling centers to advocate on behalf of volunteers who have fallen victim to sexual incidents and crimes in service. Also, these advocates could be funded to assist volunteers and families with counsel and a place to go with their concerns related to service. These advocates could be authorized as crisis corps members, so they can help investigations of volunteers in crisis in given countries.

We also support the congress in further

A. Alternatives for volunteers who are not allowed to complete their service. This includes: Full readjustment allowance for volunteers officially or unofficially evacuated from their sites after a safety incident. This also includes a guarantee of being able to serve in the government without discrimation for thier service record. That is, getting points toward continued federal service, non competitive eligibility for federal positions, full participation in all scholarship programs administered by the government, and not discriminated against in private industry or with a NGO due to thier service record. This means in security clearence checks; your Peace Corps record can't be used against you due to a safety incident.

B.Full representation in the National Peace Corps Association for volunteers not allowed to complete their service. First two years free from dues.

C. Chaplains assigned to each country or regionally (including female chaplains for cultures where contact with males would be dangerous for female volunteers) to provide for the spiritual needs of volunteers, especially in the case of death or terminal illness of family members. That volunteers can leave without question for a two week visit in the case of brievement.

D. A medical service independent from the country director. Volunteers with given medical conditions be provided with funds for their needs in service without second guessing or alternatives in medical care.

E. An Indpendent review of due process for separated volunteers.

F. An Independent review funded and mandated by Congress to review all separations over the forty plus years for trends, whether former volunteers are signigantly serving the third goal, how many contrest their separations. How many were safety and health related. How many would join again if they were treated fairly. This would be interesting for Peace Corps recruiting and need for experience in the field. The GAO can be authorized to do this by the Committee. There has never been a poll done of the third goal and of former volunteers. This would be a start.

G. Cutting red tape for Peace Corps veterans with service related disabilities. This is area that must be explored further by the Congress. There have been numerous GAO reports on this subject and these Veterans are having tremendous amount of problems post Peace Corps. Currently, former voluteers with these issues are routinely cast off to the Department of Labor under FECA benefits. Peace Corps officials just stop answering the phone on these volunteers that have served. At the Department of Labor, a veteran has to deal with people and staffers unexperienced in what Peace Corps service is and they are unempathetic to their service. Also, currently the Department of Labor has been farming these cases out to insurance companies who often make the receipent of benefits start the process over or want a new diagnosis. This leaves the Veteran in a belaboring quandry and a burden on the families of Veterans. Military Veterans have rights and Peace Corps Veterans, really don't, they end up on their own. There are thousands of stories of Veterans fighting for survival due to their service. Many have to have a home office because of all the paper work involved. It becomes a full time job in becoming the Disabled Veteran of Peace Corps. Just ask these thousands how many files, three ring binders, file cabinets and fax machines you have to have to keep up with your claim? Ask about their telephone bill too? Ask how it affects their immediate family and the love ones around them? I have just heard one story of a volunteer who parents lost their home trying to help their veteran of the Peace Corps? Is this the right image for Peace Corps and our commitment to the program and to the veterans with disabilities and for that matter to the third goal? this is the shame of all of us.

H. Public acknowledgment of volunteers who are missing or die in service.

I. A permanant memorial for missing and fallen volunteers at Peace Corps or a neutral site

K. Memorial Plagues,Flags for coffins, Flags for grave sites related to Peace Corps service like the VFW, of volunteers who die in service

This is a collaborated effort of Former Volunteers who have had safety issue and evacutation concerns, friends of members of Separated Peace Corps Veterans and former Volunteers with Health and Disability issues. We don't represent all these volunteers but many have express themselves over the last year in e-mails, telephone calls, web site writings on Peace Corps online and through letters.

We are Peace Corps Veterans for Health, Safety, and Security

We advocate for volunteers not represented by the Peace Corps or the National Peace Corps Association.

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