Federal whistleblowers will be able to appeal their cases for the next three years in any U.S. Court of Appeals with jurisdiction under bipartisan legislation the House passed earlier this week.
The All Circuit Review Extension Act (H.R. 4197) extends for three extra years a provision in the 2012 Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act that enabled whistleblowers to appeal Merit Systems Protection Board decisions to any U.S. Court of Appeals with jurisdiction. Prior to that, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had the sole jurisdiction over such cases. The provision in the 2012 law expanding the options for judicial review was only for two years.
“The pilot program authorizing whistleblowers to file appeals in U.S. Court of Appeals with jurisdiction has proven to be one of the act’s most vital, and potentially far-reaching, provisions,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., a co-sponsor of H.R. 4197. “Prior to this pilot program, federal whistleblowers were at the mercy of the Federal Circuit, which had ruled against whistleblowers in an astonishing 226 out of 229 cases since 1994.”
Whistleblowers have played a pivotal role in the large-scale scandal that has engulfed the Veterans Affairs Department over improper scheduling practices, delays in providing vets with medical care, and mishandled paperwork at various VA facilities across the country. There also have been allegations of retaliation against VA whistleblowers.
The 2012 law included several new protections for employees who blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse within the government. The Make-It-Safe Coalition, which includes dozens of groups that advocate for whistleblower protections, said the so-called all circuit review was the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act’s “most significant structural reform.” The Government Accountability Office is required to assess the law’seffectiveness four years after enactment.
The group said in the first year of the all circuit review pilot program, there were only three whistleblower cases outside of the Federal Circuit, indicating that the change was not flooding other courts with extra work.
“Whistleblowers offer essential assistance to congressional oversight efforts to investigate waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government,” said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who praised the bill’s sponsor, Maryland Democrat and committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings. “Unfortunately, however, some would-be whistleblowers have been dissuaded from bringing allegations to light due to previous loopholes in existing law and misinterpretations of congressional intent by the Federal Circuit.”