Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL) has introduced legislation to designed to offer VA whistleblowers protection from reprisals and real accountability for those who reprise against them.
Known as the Veterans Affairs Retaliation Prevention Act of 2015, Miller is introducing the legislation in response to many VA whistleblowers contending that little has changed despite the agency saying it will protect employees who expose wrongdoing.
The bill would do the following:
- Establish a new system employees could use to report retaliation claims that emphasizes addressing problems at the lowest level possible. Supervisors would be required to report all retaliation claims to facility directors, eliminating the possibility for facility leaders to claim plausible deniability of such claims
- Codify prohibitions against negative personnel actions for employees who file whistleblower complaints or who cooperate with congressional, Government Accountability Office or Inspector General investigations
- Establish mandatory disciplinary penalties for employees found to have engaged in retaliation against whistleblowers
- Establish a mandatory whistleblower protection training program for all VA employees
Miller released the following statement when he announced the new legislation:
“Even though Sec. McDonald says VA will not tolerate retaliation against whistleblowers, the fact remains the department still has much more work to do when it comes to fully addressing this issue. This problem went unchecked at VA for years, and it would be naïve to think it would simply vanish upon the appointment of a new secretary and in the absence of the thorough housecleaning the department so desperately needs. VA’s transformation won’t be complete until employees at all levels understand there are tangible consequences for retaliating against whistleblowers. This will only be achieved through actions, not words. Though Sec. McDonald and other VA leaders have said protecting whistleblowers is important, they must also ensure the department moves swiftly to fire any employees who have engaged in whistleblower retaliation. That hasn’t happened yet, and this bill will give VA leaders more tools to ensure that it does.”