Older Americans

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Your adventures are only just beginning.

Older Americans contribute tremendously to Peace Corps programs all over the globe. No single group has more to offer in terms of experience, maturity, and demonstrated ability.

Many older Volunteers find their age to be an asset while serving overseas. You will have the opportunity to share a lifetime of work and wisdom with people of developing nations who respect and appreciate age. And because there's no upper age limit to serve, it's never too late—Volunteers who are well into their eighties have served and continue to serve.


Contents

[edit] Rewards

The pay is small, but the rewards are immeasurable.

As an older Volunteer, you know you'll bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to your Peace Corps service. What will you get in return? First and foremost, there's the satisfaction of being able to make a difference in the lives of others who need your help.

You will be in an environment in which life is measured by your achievements, not your earning power. You will find that you and your work are appreciated, which renews vigor and vitality. You will have the adventure of creating a new life for yourself.

While you're in the Peace Corps, we take care of all your basic needs. Benefits all Volunteers receive include full medical and dental care, a monthly living allowance, and an accrued re-adjustment allowance that is payable when your service is complete. Normally, your living allowance will not interfere with any Social Security benefits you may be receiving. Volunteer housing is modest but comfortable.

Volunteers also gain invaluable pre-service training. Supportive and individualized Peace Corps language instruction provides each Volunteer with a good start towards language proficiency. Technical and cross-cultural training prepare you for your new assignment and give you an in-depth orientation to the culture and traditions of the people with whom you will live and work.

During your time as a Volunteer, a team of dedicated Peace Corps staff are in your country of service to help you. This includes a director who oversees the country's program, an associate director who is responsible for Volunteer training, an administrator to take care of all your paperwork, and a medical officer to address your health concerns.

By joining the Peace Corps, you will have a chance to live, work, and travel in a developing country. You may also visit neighboring countries. Vacation is accrued at the rate of two days per month and can be taken as an individual's work situation allows. Also, your family may visit you during your stay overseas.

The benefits of serving as a Volunteer continue upon your return home. You will find yourself in the position to provide first-hand experience to help other Americans understand the nation where you have served. Returned Volunteers are frequently asked to speak at conferences, community group meetings, and other forums about their experiences overseas.

[edit] Serving Abroad

Questions and answers about living and working overseas are provided below.

[edit] I thought the Peace Corps was just for recent college graduates; does the Peace Corps really seek older applicants?

Volunteers with a lifetime of experience are eagerly sought! The Peace Corps has no upper age limit. Currently 5 percent of Peace Corps Volunteers are over age 50.

[edit] What's it like to serve with Volunteers whose average age is 27?

Most Volunteers of all ages say they benefit greatly by training, working, and facing challenges together. The friendships formed through these experiences often become life long. In their host communities, mid-life and 50+ Volunteers are generally accorded respect for their age and wisdom and often mentor younger Volunteers. Because there are fewer older Volunteers, however, loneliness can be a problem for those who feel the need for a nearby and supportive peer group. A network of strong relationships with a variety of other Volunteers, Peace Corps staff, and, very importantly, new friends in host communities can help alleviate loneliness—and provide a wealth of opportunities for sharing and learning.

[edit] Should I be anxious about learning a new language?

This is the number-one concern of older applicants. Integration into your community is essential to being an effective Peace Corps Volunteer, and communication is certainly a key element to that integration. To prepare you as a Volunteer, Peace Corps’ language-training teams provide approximately three months of training in-country by native speakers. This formal language training focuses on both grammar and overall communication skills. Trainees also typically live with a host family during their training, which provides an “immersion experience,” enhancing language acquisition, cross-cultural adjustment, and assimilation into the community. Volunteers who need additional language instruction after pre-service training often arrange for a local tutor once they arrive at their worksite. Additionally, many people find it helpful to begin a basic language course before they depart for service.

[edit] Can I serve with my spouse?

Married couples may serve in the Peace Corps together, but each person must apply separately and qualify as a Volunteer. It can take longer to place married couples, as the number of placements in-country for two qualified Volunteers in the same location is limited.

[edit] Are there any Peace Corps countries where Volunteers are not sent due to age?

Placement is based on matching the skills of a Volunteer with the needs of the host country as well as an assessment of a Volunteer’s medical needs and the appropriate services available in that country. A few countries have mandated retirement ages. At present, to be considered for service in Namibia or the Philippines, you must be no older than 63 by your swearing-in date.

[edit] How about staying connected to my kids and my grandkids?

Most Volunteers are able to maintain contact with family, friends, and fellow Volunteers by regular mail, e-mail, and telephone. Modes of communication can vary greatly.

[edit] Can my family and friends visit?

Yes, this is a wonderful way to share your experience of the host country with loved ones. Using accrued vacation time to spend with visiting guests offers flexibility in your schedule and does not interfere with work. Vacation and visitor policies are explained in the Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook.

[edit] What if a family emergency occurs while I am serving?

If a serious medical problem or death occurs in your immediate family, the Peace Corps allows a leave period and pays for travel to the site of the emergency, at the Peace Corps’ expense. Immediate family is defined as spouse, parents, siblings, and children. Should an emergency occur for those not covered, Volunteers may take leave and travel at their own expense. Those not covered include in-laws or grandchildren (except when a Volunteer has been the caregiver of the child for at least five consecutive years prior to child reaching age 18).

[edit] My family and friends are worried about my safety—what should I tell them?

The safety of Volunteers is paramount to the Peace Corps. Each Peace Corps country has staff devoted to safety and security. Additionally, the Peace Corps provides training to Volunteers on observing locally appropriate behavior, exercising sound judgment, and abiding by agency policies and procedures. In choosing Volunteer sites, the Peace Corps considers factors such as access to medical and other essential services and availability of communications and transportation, particularly in cases of emergency. There is a Peace Corps office in every country where Volunteers serve (except the Eastern Caribbean where one office serves several nearby islands).

[edit] How do I vote while serving abroad?

You can arrange to vote through an absentee ballot, which can be mailed to you via the Peace Corps office in your country of service.


[edit] Medical and Health Insurance

Specific medical questions Peace Corps hears from 50+ candidates.

[edit] Is the medical screening process during application different for older candidates?

The medical screening process is the same regardless of an applicant’s age. Because of the nature of countries where Peace Corps serves and the scope of the medical services available in those countries, all applicants undergo a comprehensive medical and dental assessment based on their health history and examinations to determine if they are medically qualified to serve in the Peace Corps. Each applicant is assessed individually to determine if Peace Corps’ medical eligibility standards are met. The Peace Corps Office of Medical Services screening unit works with an applicant to ensure that pre-existing conditions are considered and that a Peace Corps country is capable of providing the necessary services and support to accommodate a condition.

The medical assessment process may take more time for applicants with involved health histories. This assessment usually requires more communication between the applicant and the Office of Medical Services and often involves the need for additional information and medical tests. While the Peace Corps reimburses applicants a set amount for certain dental and medical examinations, costs incurred above that are not covered by the Peace Corps and you will likely have to pay for these additional medical costs while trying to get a medical clearance.

Resources in terms of an applicant’s time and finances are not insignificant. The Peace Corps provides a list of medical conditions that typically cannot be accommodated.

[edit] Will the Peace Corps office in the country I serve be aware of my medical records and needs?

Yes. Your medical record is provided to the Peace Corps medical officer prior to your arrival in-country. Peace Corps takes very seriously the confidentiality of medical records, and they are protected by the Privacy Act. On occasion, some limited information may be given to a non-medical Peace Corps staff member (e.g., the country director) who has a specific need to know it to protect the safety, health, and security of Volunteers. They, too, have an obligation to protect confidentiality.

[edit] Will my medical expenses be covered while I am serving as a Volunteer?

The Peace Corps provides a comprehensive health program beginning at the start of Peace Corps service and continuing until you end service. This coverage includes health education and instruction, treatment for injuries/medical conditions, prescriptions, immunizations, and dental care. These services are delivered by the Peace Corps medical officer and/or other approved providers in-country.

[edit] What about after Peace Corps service is over?

After service, returned Volunteers are eligible for 18 months of coverage by a private health insurance called CorpsCare®. Peace Corps pays the first month’s premium and you have the option to purchase a comprehensive health insurance policy to cover you and qualified dependents. If you have service-related conditions that need an evaluation, your medical officer or the Office of Medical Services at headquarters will provide an authorization for this evaluation. If an illness or injury was related to your activities as a Volunteer, you may be eligible for benefits under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) through the Department of Labor.

[edit] What if I become ill while overseas?

Necessary immunizations, anti-malaria medication (if appropriate), and health precaution instruction are provided at initial training. The Peace Corps medical officer in-country will assist you in protecting and maintaining your health, and provide primary care as needed. If a medical condition should arise that requires a level of care not available in the country of assignment, medical evacuation to another country or to the United States will be arranged through the Peace Corps Volunteer health system.

[edit] Should I maintain my health insurance during Peace Corps service?

Some private sector retirees may experience difficulty in re-applying for health insurance upon completion of service. For this reason, private sector retirees may wish to consider maintaining their existing health insurance during service.

Federal retirees may suspend federal employee health benefits during Peace Corps service. However, you will need to talk with your retirement office to ensure that the suspension is done in a way that permits re-enrollment.

The Peace Corps provides Volunteers with full healthcare coverage during service, so check with your Medicare office to find out whether Medicare payments will continue to be deducted from your Social Security payment while you serve. You can cancel Medicare Part B (so you don’t have to pay the monthly deductions during your service) and re-enroll without penalty when you return to the U.S., as long as you submit the re-enrollment forms prior to your close of service (e.g., when you’re filing for CorpsCare® coverage). While serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer, Medicare defines you as “employed” for its purposes, which waives penalties for late filing.


[edit] Finance

Information about arranging your financial life to live abroad.

[edit] Will Peace Corps service affect my Social Security retirement benefits?

Only the Social Security Administration (SSA) can determine whether, or how, your benefits will be affected while you serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer. The Peace Corps readjustment allowance (accrued at the rate of $225 per month and paid at the end of service for all months including training) and a small percentage of the monthly living allowance you are provided by the Peace Corps constitute earnings for Social Security purposes. Social Security and Medicare tax payments are deducted from your monthly readjustment allowance.

Get more information about Social Security retirement benefits. For questions about retirement benefits, please contact the human resources department at your workplace.

[edit] Will Peace Corps service affect my Social Security disability payments?

The Social Security Administration retains the right to determine on a case-by-case basis whether the physical demands on a Peace Corps Volunteer warrant continuation of disability payments. Every case is reviewed periodically by SSA, generally at least once every three years, to make sure all requirements for the entitlement are met. Contact SSA for more information about disability payments.

[edit] Are Peace Corps Volunteers exempt from capital gains on the sale of their principal residence in the U.S.?

Check with your tax advisor for the most current information.

[edit] How can I best maintain my home and financial affairs while overseas?

You may want to discuss with an attorney the possibility of giving a relative or friend power of attorney to handle your financial matters while you are serving in the Peace Corps. If you decide to rent your home while you are overseas, a property manager may be useful to arrange leases, handle rental income, pay taxes and insurance, and supervise needed repairs and maintenance on your home. You might also consider having an accountant or tax service prepare your income taxes while you are overseas. Note that your monthly living allowance and readjustment allowance are considered taxable income, so W-2 forms will be sent to your Peace Corps worksite. You can either file from overseas or send them home, along with other income records, to be filed by someone else. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you may be granted an extension on the April 15 filing date. Consult your tax advisor for additional information.

[edit] Can I have debt of any sort (e.g., tuition for my kids) and still be in the Peace Corps?

Managing money shows fiscal responsibility, so debt alone is not a disqualification. You can serve in the Peace Corps with outstanding financial obligations if you can show that the debts can be managed and paid in a timely way during service, or provide required documentation that clearly shows how you plan to satisfy these obligations. If you plan to have another person assume responsibility for making payments on a debt, an original copy of a notarized statement from that person acknowledging his or her responsibility is required.

An applicant may include an allotment or multiple allotments up to $168.75 per month from his or her Volunteer readjustment allowance when making debt payment plans. This allotment is not available until the trainee is sworn in as a Volunteer, so the applicant must make other arrangements for payments during training. These allotments must be paid directly to the company that holds the debt.


[edit] Federal Government Employees

Questions related to retirement benefits from private companies should be addressed to your human resources department. As a federal agency, Peace Corps has gathered answers for U.S. government employees, which are provided below.

[edit] Is Peace Corps service counted as time in federal service?

Peace Corps Volunteers are not considered federal employees and therefore are not entitled to any federal benefits. However, if hired or rehired as federal employees following Peace Corps service, the months of Volunteer service can count toward total years of government service for leave purposes. Time served as a Volunteer is creditable toward a federal employee’s “service computation date” for leave purposes only. You cannot retire from the federal government two years early and use Peace Corps Volunteer service to make up the difference.

If you work for the federal government subsequent to your Peace Corps service, you may get credit toward retirement if you make a “service credit deposit” to cover the period you were a Peace Corps Volunteer (not a trainee). Your human resources office should have the relevant information and forms.

[edit] As a federal employee can I retire and then serve in the Peace Corps? Can I return to federal service when I finish serving in the Peace Corps?

Yes, you can do either. Some people serve in the Peace Corps directly after they retire from federal employment; others serve in the Peace Corps and then return to their previous job or find another federal job. However, there are no provisions for guaranteeing current federal employees their positions in the government if they become a Peace Corps Volunteer. Before resigning you should look into the possibility of being placed on leave without pay (LWOP) for the period of time you serve as a Volunteer (typically 27 months). It is up to your employer whether or not you can be rehired after a leave of absence. Check with your human resources department and supervisor.

[edit] Can I receive my federal retirement benefits while I am overseas?

Yes, you can receive your retirement annuity/benefits while serving as a Volunteer provided you retire from federal service prior to beginning your Peace Corps service. If you meet the age and other requirements for retirement from your agency while serving as a Volunteer, you can apply for your annuity at any time from that point forward.

Receiving a retirement annuity has no impact on your Peace Corps stipend. Volunteers receive a monthly living allowance based on the cost of living in the country where they serve. This amount is approximately $200–$230 per month and covers basic living costs such as rent, food, clothing, and transportation.

Please talk with a Peace Corps recruiter for additional information at 800.424.8580, option 1.


[edit] External Links

Older Americans Official US Peace Corps Website

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