Sens. intro bill to reduce whistleblower retaliations after VA scandal
- Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and committee member Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) have introduced a bill to provide protections and quicken investigations of instances where probationary federal employees are fired for whistleblowing.
- The measure, named the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act, would also help hold managers that retaliate against whistleblowers and Department of Veteran Affairs employees that improperly access fellow employees’ medical records accountable, according to a prepared statement from Johnson.
- The bill is named after Kirkpatrick, a psychologist at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, WI, who was fired after he questioned the over-medication of veterans being treated at the facility and later committed suicide on the day of his termination.
The bill is hot on the heels of a scandal last year where whistleblowers revealed widespread inadequacies in the department, with data showing a sample of 226 patients from a Phoenix clinic had waited an average of 24 days for primary care appointments, while the real wait time was an average of 115 days.
The whistleblowers have alleged to receive retaliation from within their department as a result of whistleblowing.
Last month at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, three whistleblowers and a relative of Kirkpatrick testified “there has been a lack of accountability in the investigations,” The Hill reported.
In response, the Office of Special Counsel created a quickened review process for retaliation cases, said Carolyn Lerner, special counsel from the office, reported The Hill. As a result of the process, 30 corrective actions have occurred as of September 22.
The proposed bill also seeks to provide the Office of Special Counsel with adequate access to federal information to allow for complete investigations, ensure all federal employees are informed of their rights as whistleblowers and provide training to managers on whistleblower protections.
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