A few years ago some former volunteers brought the subject of Peace Corps safety and security to public attention. The result was public hearings, a series of articles in the Dayton Daily News, and some proposed legislation that passed the House, but never made it out of Senate subcommittee for a vote on the floor.
Now there is some talk around the capital about a Veteran’s Administration-type organization that would help volunteers with their rights, such as obtaining benefits for medical problems sustained as volunteers, linking volunteers with other programs after Peace Corps service, and acting as ombudsman for volunteers with special issues. The situation of Walter Portier is often mentioned. Portier was a Peace Corps volunteer who disappeared in Africa around 2001 and his whereabouts are unknown to this day. The Peace Corps was perceived as inattentive in searching for him or even realizing he was missing and as unsupportative of the family, to say the least.
Here is my question: what would the structure of such an organization look like?
The entire Peace Corps structure currently reports to the director of the Peace Corps who reports to the President. There have been noises about making the Inspector General for the Peace Corps independent, but although the inspector general’s office wishes this, the Peace Corps opposes it; Congress has not seen fit to go against Peace Corps’ wishes. Certainly the relationship between the Peace Corps and their oversight organization, the inspector general’s office, is very cordial as it is–how would you like to be in charge of overseeing the person who can fire you? There is no job security for Peace Corps employees as they have a five-year term limit and must renew their contract every 2 1/2 years, although historically many have found some loophole and stayed in the organization longer five years. with contracts contantly up for renewal , it is hardly surprising that no employees at all seem disposed to make any waves, take a stand on any issue, or do anywthing but follow blindly whatever the leadership is supposed to wish for. What I am trying to say here is that any organization that could advocatesuccessfully for volunteers would have to be completely separate from the Peace Corps hierarchy, especially the director’s office.
The VA is independent of the armed services, right? Does anyone know how it is structured, what they are supposed to do? What they end up doing? Does anyone know if it works, or if a better structure would work better for it? Do they advocate for individuals?
Maybe I’m not even asking the right questions. What questions should I be asking?