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Call Congress

"It's crucial that Returned Peace Corps Volunteers make their voice heard at this key time of the year."

David and Faith Van Gilder, RPCVs, Advocacy Coordinators, Indiana

 

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Why call your representatives?

...because actually speaking with someone makes a big difference. 

Getting someone on the phone—even for two minutes—can make a lasting impression. You'll have the listener's attention, the opportunity to answer questions in realtime, and a better chance that the office will follow-up with your concerns. Use our tips and talking points below.

 
 
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In March 2017, 12,700 communications

were sent to Congress from the Peace Corps community.  We'll need to send more in 2018.

 
 

Call Your Representatives

Tips  &  Talking Points

Tips

  • Hellos, Goodbyes and Tone: Congressional offices are busy places, and staff work long hours. Asking how their day is going can be a pleasant change of pace. A kind hello and goodbye, plus a patient tone throughout your call will most likely reflect well on your issue.
  • Introduction: Introduce yourself and state that you're a constituent.
  • Ask to speak with the appropriate aide for your issue: Speaking with the right staffer will help the call be more productive for both you and the office.
  • Prepare: Know your facts and talking points before you call.
  • Be Brief, Clear and Concise: Your listener will appreciate your issue more if it's presented well and with respect to their time. If your conversation does carry on, great, but make sure you've first made your main points and asks.
  • Make Your Ask: Be sure to ask your representative to do something, whether it's sign a bill or support a funding level.
  • Request Follow-up: If necessary, ask your listener to kindly get back to you with your representative's position. Provide you phone number and email, and request their email as well.
  • Can't Get Through?: Offices can get slammed, and sometimes no one is available or able to return a voicemail. If this is the case, try reaching out to your local office.

Peace Corps Budget Script and Talking Points

  • Script: "Hello. I am calling today to urge your support of $410 million for the Peace Corps for fiscal year 2018. Peace Corps Volunteers are urgently needed to help communities help themselves, spread the best of the American idea and our values overseas, and gain the experience and skills necessary for the next generation of American leadership. America and the world need Peace Corps now. Thank you."
  • Background: The President's Fiscal Year 2018 budget request for the Peace Corps is $398.2 million, a nearly-$12 million or 2.7% cut from current funding of $410 million. The House has also proposed this cut, but the Senate has maintained level funding. The House and Senate are currently negotiating their final funding number.
  • The Ask: I urge you to support no less than $410 million for the Peace Corps' Fiscal Year 2018 budget, and no less than $60 billion for the international affairs Fiscal Year 2018 budget, which funds the Peace Corps and its partners.
  • Talking Points: Please note: We provide many talking points for your convenience, and you may not have time to cover all of them. Make sure you make "The Ask" before covering the talking points.

I am deeply concerned about potential cuts to the Peace Corps and international affairs programs. I call today to urge your office to support America's continued leadership abroad by supporting no less than $410 million for the Peace Corps and no less than $60 billion for the International Affairs Budget for fiscal year 2018. I am deeply concerned about the dangerous cuts to these vital programs proposed in the new budget deal, and urge your boss to ask Leadership and Appropriations Committee Chairmen to fully restore these budgets for fiscal year 2018.

● As America and the world continue to combat familiar challenges and face new ones, the Peace Corps is needed now more than ever. By training foreign communities in critical areas of need, imparting American culture, and applying their experience, knowledge and skills to make America’s communities better once they return home, Peace Corps Volunteers provide high impact at a fraction of the budget.

● The Peace Corps benefits America’s economy, security, development, and reputation.

● In February 2017, 121 retired three and four-star generals told Congress that “Peace Corps and other development agencies are critical to preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way.”

● In fiscal year 2016, U.S. exports to current Peace Corps countries totaled $441.1 billion, or 30% of all U.S. exports.

● Fluent in languages, culturally agile, and trusted by local communities, Volunteers are America’s grassroots diplomats, and a Volunteer is often the only American known by a host community.

● Peace Corps leverages every taxpayer dollar by partnering with other agencies and programs, like PEPFAR and USAID, to implement HIV/AIDS, global food security, and malaria prevention projects.

● Both supply and demand for Peace Corps is skyrocketing. Approximately 7,000 Volunteers currently serve in 65 countries. However, in fiscal year 2016, approximately 24,000 Americans applied, but funding could only support 3,800 opportunities. Retired Gen. McChrystal says that “This gap represents democratic energy wasted and a generation of patriotism needlessly squandered.” And each year, 5,000 more Peace Corps Volunteers are requested by countries than funding allows.

● America’s model citizens are made in the Peace Corps. 170 Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) affiliate groups and more than 230,000 individuals demonstrate a lifetime commitment to Peace Corps ideals. From serving as members of Congress and as entrepreneurs, to raising funds for Ebola victims and micro-loans for women’s groups, the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer community has a domestic dividend that is unmatched.

Health Legislation Script and Talking Points

  • Script: "Hello. I call today to urge your support of [in the House] H.R. 2259, the Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act / [in the Senate] S. 2286, the Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act. This legislation would implement improvements in the health care and safety for Peace Corps Volunteers, and returned volunteers who come home with service related injuries or illness. Peace Corps Volunteers serve our country and deserve the best support possible. Thank you."

  • Background: Both chambers of Congress have introduced bipartisan legislation to implement reforms aimed at improving the health and safety for Peace Corps Volunteers and returned volunteers who come home with service related illness and injuries. Last May, Congressmen Ted Poe (R-TX) and RPCV Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA) introduced H.R. 2259, the Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act. On January 10, 2018, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) joined by Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chris Coons (D-DE), introduced S. 2286, the Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act.

  • The Ask: I urge you to co-sponsor Senate Bill 2286 (or House Bill 2259), legislation to implement improvements in the health care and safety for Peace Corps Volunteers, and returned volunteers who come home with service related injuries or illness.
  • Talking Points: Please note: We provide many talking points for your convenience, and you may not have time to cover all of them. Make sure you make "The Ask" before covering the talking points.

● More than 230,000 citizens have served our nation with distinction in the Peace Corps. They deserve our support and respect.

● In Peace Corps' Fiscal Year 2018 budget justification to Congress, the agency states that “the health, safety and security of volunteers remain the agency’s highest priorities.”

● Congress has the opportunity to help meet this priority by passing comprehensive health and safety legislation that addresses a variety of needs.

● The group Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers has worked for many years in support of key provisions to assist the most vulnerable members of the Peace Corps community - returned volunteers struggling with serious service-related illness or injuries.

● The parents of Nick Castle—a volunteer who died in 2013 while serving our nation as a Peace Corps Volunteer in China—have been working since their son’s death to make improvements so other families won’t have to face similar tragedies.

● Those needs include ensuring 1) the quality and sufficient quantity of overseas medical personnel at Peace Corps posts; 2) the ability of the agency to be fully involved in supporting recently returned volunteers with diagnosis and treatment for service-related medical issues; 3) further improvements, education and training related to treatment of volunteers serving in malaria countries; 4) increased workers’ compensation payments for returned volunteers who are determined to be temporarily or permanently disabled; and 5) further protection and support for volunteers subjected to sexual assault or other forms of violence (including re-authorization of key provisions of the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act).

● Neither the Senate nor the House legislation contain all reforms requested by key Peace Corps community stakeholders (including those outlined above). We are urging both chambers to advance and pass their respective legislation, and urge the Senate and House to come together to pass the strongest Peace Corps health legislation possible.

Benefits Talking Points

  • Background: Non-Competitive Eligibility provides Federal employers the option to apply preferential status to RPCV applicants. This status is in jeopardy as a Federal hiring freeze remains in place.
  • The Ask: I urge you to support H.R. 1442, the Public Service Federal Eligibility Protection Act of 2017. NOTE: There is no Senate companion bill.
  • Talking Points: Please note: We provide many talking points for your convenience, and you may not have time to cover all of them. Make sure you make "The Ask" before covering the talking points.

● This bipartisan legislation would simply extend non-competitive eligibility for RPCVs by the amount of days that the Federal hiring freeze is in place.

● Upon completion of service, RPCVs receive non-competitive eligibility (NCE) status for federal employment. Through NCE status, the federal government is able to prioritize hiring of RPCVs--patriotic, service-oriented Americans who can immediately contribute high-quality skills and policy input to their jobs.

● A loss of NCE status would not only hamper the efforts of the federal government to recruit and onboard ideal employees, it would strip RPCVs of one of the few benefits they receive for their service.

● Additionally, NCE is often the springboard for a lifetime in diplomacy and development for RPCVs, who leverage their language skills, cultural agility and dedication to the service of the United States' mission overseas.

  • Background: The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program forgives certain federal loans after a ten-year period of regular monthly payments, should an individual work full-time in the public service sector during that period with a qualifying employer. Peace Corps service currently qualifies under this program. The House has eliminated this program in the Higher Ed bill.
  • The Ask: I urge you to oppose elimination of the Department of Education's Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
  • Talking Points: Please note: We provide many talking points for your convenience, and you may not have time to cover all of them. Make sure you make "The Ask" before covering the talking points.

● Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a vital financial assistance program for Americans who have served our country, including returned Peace Corps volunteers.

● At great personal and professional sacrifice Peace Corps volunteers serve our country to help others help themselves and build people-to-people connections that last generations. Following service, returned Peace Corps volunteers often build on their Peace Corps skills and experience by pursuing post-graduate degrees. Eliminating the PSFLP would handicap these volunteers and discourage Americans from applying to serve their country in the first place.

  • Background: H.R. 1295, The Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act, honors returned Peace Corps volunteers and former Peace Corps staff by allowing the use of the name and logo of the Peace Corps in an obituary or gravestone. Currently, there is no Senate companion bill.
  • The Ask: I urge you to respectfully honor returned Peace Corps volunteers and former Peace Corps staff by co-sponsoring H.R. 1295, the Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act.
  • Talking Points: Please note: We provide many talking points for your convenience, and you may not have time to cover all of them. Make sure you make "The Ask" before covering the talking points.

● This bipartisan legislation would afford returned Peace Corps volunteers and former Peace Corps staff the dignity of using the Peace Corps name and logo in an obituary or on their gravestone. Current restrictions prohibit these Americans from being recognized for their service to the country and their host communities.

● Since 1961, some 230,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps and many thousands more have supported their work in critical support roles as staff. For many of them, the Peace Corps remains the most transformative, memorable and patriotic experience of their lives.

● Not recognizing this service is an added and unnecessary burden in the already difficult circumstance for anyone contemplating end-of-life decisions or for family and loved ones carrying out the wishes of the deceased. Co-sponsoring H.R. 1295 and allowing returned Peace Corps volunteers and former Peace Corps staff to have their service recognized is a decent, commonsense decision.