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GAO: Peace Corps not using valuable info to assess workers' comp program

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Workers' compensation for Peace Corps volunteers might improve if the Peace Corps and the Labor Department took full advantage of the information they have about it, the Government Accountability Office says.

In a report (.pdf) released Nov. 19, the GAO says the agencies have information about Peace Corps volunteers' experiences using their benefits, how well they understand them, and the availability of medical providers. But neither agency uses that information to see how well the workers' compensation program is working, auditors say.

The Peace Corps reimburses the DOL for its volunteers' service-related medical expenses, which cost $22 million from 2009 to 2011. Related expenses, such as the cost to travel to receive medical care, added another $14 million in that time.

The DOL administers the governmentwide workers' compensation program, officially Federal Employees' Compensation Act benefits. But it doesn't fund the benefits, and Peace Corps volunteers are a small portion of all beneficiaries, making their benefits a relatively minor issue for the department.

Still, the DOL has potentially useful information about the program that the Peace Corps lacks--such as the geographic location of eligible medical providers and how quickly the DOL reimburses volunteers for medical costs. But the DOL and Peace Corps generally don't work together to monitor that information, auditors say.

From 2009 to 2011, mental health problems were the most common category of conditions that Peace Corps volunteers were reimbursed for, accounting for 11 percent of reimbursements and 15 percent of the total cost.

Dental issues were the next most common condition, and sprains and strains were the next most costly.

For more:
- download the report, GAO-13-27 (.pdf)

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