Employees who punish whistleblowers can currently get away with just a reprimand, senator says.
Members of Congress want to fire more federal employees.
The latest measure, introduced by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., would require VA to fire employees found guilty of retaliating against whistleblowers. Currently, retaliation is a fireable offense, though lesser punishments such as fines and reprimands are also acceptable responses.
“Whistleblowers are critical to our efforts to guard against waste and misconduct in government -- and in the case of the VA, against the compromise of patient care,” said McCaskill, a consistent whistleblower champion. “This bill requires the firing of any VA employee found to have retaliated against a whistleblower -- no ifs, ands, or buts -- and I’m hopeful it will be a step in the right direction to change the culture of the VA and ensure our veterans are receiving the highest level of care.”
The VA is currently facing dozens of accusations of whistleblower retaliation; the independent Office of Special Counsel is currently reviewing about 60 such cases in light of employees blowing the whistle on patient scheduling issues and data manipulation.
The new VA administration has promised to eradicate any retaliation against those who shed the light on agency shortcomings.
Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson has said that “intimidation or retaliation -- not just against whistleblowers, but against any employee who raises a hand to identify a problem, make a suggestion, or report what may be a violation in law, policy, or our core values -- is absolutely unacceptable. I will not tolerate it in our organization.”
McCaskill recently introduced a bill with Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., to allow VA to rescind bonuses paid to employees found guilty of manipulating patient data. See all the options Congress is considering to reform VA here.