A bill strengthening whistleblower protections for federal employees has unanimously passed the House after passing the Senate in May. It now heads to President Trump's desk for signing or veto.
The bill was named after a VA psychologist named Chris Kirkpatrick. He was fired by the VA medical center he worked for after he raised concerns about certain patient medications. He committed suicide after his retaliatory dismissal.
The bill would make certain federal workers are protected when they disclose fraud, waste or abuse in government programs. It would also train the employees about the protections and create enhanced penalties for supervisors who respond to whistleblowing with retaliation.
It also has a specific task for the VA: Prevent unauthorized access to workers' medical information and conduct employee outreach around mental health services.
"Future whistleblowers who take a risk to expose wrongdoing and waste in the federal government deserve the respect and support of our nation. I urge the president to quickly sign these important reforms into law," said Senator Ron Johnson, the bill's author.
According to the Hill, House Democrats tried to amend the bill on a procedural vote in order to address situations like that involving Tom Price, former secretary of Health and Human Services who allegedly cost taxpayers around $1 million in pricy private travel. That amendment would have extended whistleblower protections to federal workers who blow the whistle on political appointees or agency heads. That procedural vote failed along party lines.
The House passed two other bills to protect government whistleblowers. One would allow any whistleblower outside the intelligence community to share classified information with their supervisors and chain of command in order to support their claim. The other would authorize federal agencies to pay cash rewards of up to $20,000 to whistleblowers who report government waste.
The False Claims Act offers protection for whistleblowers at government contractors
If you work for a private company that performs government contract work, you should know that you can legally blow the whistle on waste, fraud or abuse in those government contracts. The federal False Claims Act (and state false claims acts) allow you to do so under seal.
If your identity is found out, your employer is prohibited by law from retaliating against you in any way. If your company tries to silence you by citing a confidentiality agreement you signed, you should know that the tactic is usually ineffective.
If your claim is successful, you could receive between 15 and 30 percent of the money you help reclaim.