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senate Bill S. 585

Should There be Stronger Protections for Whistleblowers at the VA and Other Agencies?

Argument in favor

This bill would help safeguard whistleblowers who speak up about corruption and mismanagement at the VA and other agencies and hold those who retaliate against them accountable.

IllWill's Opinion
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10/10/2017
Whistleblowers need more protection in every agency and every level of government, not just at the VA. Employees who expose corruption, mismanagement, and wrongdoing should be honored.
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Leo's Opinion
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10/08/2017
Whistleblowers take great risk to reveal questionable government actions. Increasing protection for them is long overdue.
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Benjamin's Opinion
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10/12/2017
It is imperative that whistleblowers revealing a legitimate violation of legal or express moral limits be given every possible protection as an incentive to protect the American people from the sometimes misguided acts of a general few. This should not be construed as a carte blanche approach to secret affairs, but rather a mandate for individuals to protect the common moral good and agencies to support their difficult choice to speak out.
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Argument opposed

Existing protections for whistleblowers are sufficient to keep them from being retaliated against or give them a way to seek corrective action if they are. Federal employees are already aware of their rights.

Dominick's Opinion
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10/13/2017
The idea that we choose to protect people who leak government secrets is ridiculous. There are things I believe the public has a right to know of course, we choose the people we put into power and they choose the people who run these departments. But it creates a slippery slope when it comes to whether or not we choose to defend the rights of people who release state secrets that may be able to be used by our enemies against the well being of the United States of America.
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Teresa's Opinion
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10/13/2017
I work for the public school district. They are strong enough. Trust me!
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Terry's Opinion
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10/12/2017
This is ethical business practice and should already de in place.
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What is Senate Bill S. 585?

This bill — the  Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act — would strengthen penalties for federal employees who retaliate against whistleblowers, add protections for probationary period employees, and ensure federal employees have a greater knowledge of whistleblower protections. It would also prohibit an employee who has the authority to take a personnel action to access the medical records of another employee or applicant, and authorize disciplinary action against supervisors for retaliating against whistleblowers.

Federal agencies would be required to give priority to an employee transfer request if the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) grants a stay of a personnel action at the request of:

  • The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) if OSC determines the personnel action was, or is to be taken as a result of a prohibited personnel practice — like in retaliation for whistleblowing.

  • The employee if they are in probationary status and seek corrective action.

Agencies would be required to:

  • Refer information about employee suicides to the OSC;

  • Train supervisors on responding to complaints alleging whistleblower protections violations;

  • Provide information regarding whistleblower protections to new employees during probationary periods;

  • Inform employees of the role of the OSC and the MSPB with regard to whistleblower protection;

  • Make information about such protections available on agency websites.

The Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) would be required to:

  • Submit a plan to prevent unauthorized access to the medical records of VA employees;

  • Conduct an outreach program to inform its employees of available mental health services, including telemedicine options;

  • Ensure protocols are in effect to address threats against VA employees providing healthcare.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) would be required to assess the reporting, staffing, accountability, and chain of command structure of VA police officers at VA medical centers. It would also be required to report on retaliation against employees on probationary status.

This bill is named after Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick, a whistleblower who worked as a psychologist for the VA and reported excessive prescription practices at the VA medical center in Tomah, WI. Kirkpatrick took his own life the same day he was fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle.

Impact

Federal employees, especially those at the VA; whistleblowers; federal agencies, particularly the VA; and the OSC.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 585

$3.00 Million
The CBO estimates that enacting this bill would cost $3 million over the 2018-2022 period.

More Information

In-DepthSponsoring Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) introduced this bill to improve whistleblower protections at the VA and other federal agencies:

“Individuals who expose wrongdoing at VA medical facilities should be thanked and listened to, not silenced and subject to mistreatment. I’m pleased to partner with Sen. Ernst to ensure future whistleblowers like Dr. Kirkpatrick receive the support they deserve.”

Lead cosponsor Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) added:

“This commonsense legislation would help to safeguard whistleblowers who speak up about corruption and mistreatment in our VA system, and take additional steps to hold retaliators responsible. Efforts to fix the VA must be protected, not punished, as we work to improve access to timely and quality care for our nation’s veterans.”

This legislation passed both the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate as a whole unanimously.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: smontgom65 / iStock)

AKA

Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017

Official Title

A bill to provide greater whistleblower protections for Federal employees, increased awareness of Federal whistleblower protections, and increased accountability and required discipline for Federal supervisors who retaliate against whistleblowers, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • EnactedOctober 26th, 2017
    The President signed this bill into law
  • The house Passed October 12th, 2017
    Roll Call Vote 420 Yea / 0 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on Oversight and Reform
      Economic Opportunity
      Oversight and Investigations
      Committee on Veterans' Affairs
  • The senate Passed May 25th, 2017
    Passed by Voice Vote
      senate Committees
      Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
    IntroducedMarch 8th, 2017

Log in or create an account to see how your Reps voted!
    Whistleblowers need more protection in every agency and every level of government, not just at the VA. Employees who expose corruption, mismanagement, and wrongdoing should be honored.
    Like (131)
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    Whistleblowers take great risk to reveal questionable government actions. Increasing protection for them is long overdue.
    Like (62)
    Follow
    Share
    It is imperative that whistleblowers revealing a legitimate violation of legal or express moral limits be given every possible protection as an incentive to protect the American people from the sometimes misguided acts of a general few. This should not be construed as a carte blanche approach to secret affairs, but rather a mandate for individuals to protect the common moral good and agencies to support their difficult choice to speak out.
    Like (61)
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    No one should have to fear being subjected to punishment for speaking up when something is not right.
    Like (35)
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    People deserve to be protected for calling out immoral actions. If people are afraid to call people out, these people doing things contrary to the law will be able to continue these practices with no repercussions, resulting in no positive changes.
    Like (25)
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    My husband works for the VA and is a veteran. I would like to see him feel free to stand up for what is right for his patients and for himself.
    Like (20)
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    This should be obvious
    Like (13)
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    Increased protection is a must.
    Like (12)
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    Anyone that reveals government or business corruption, illegalities, or screw-ups should be honored, never prosecuted.
    Like (12)
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    By encouraging employees to call out inaction, questionable practices and general wrongdoings we increase transparency in our government.
    Like (9)
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    Protection for whistleblowers is long overdue. Exposing corruption should be rewarded, not demonized.
    Like (8)
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    Sounds ethical. I can support this, but am wondering what is hidden in this Bill that Republicans are trying to push through. This should also be expanded to protect people in Edward Snowden’s position.
    Like (8)
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    They are heroes not foes to the American people!
    Like (7)
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    This country is built on democratic principles. That means the government works for the benefit of the people who comply to the government. In order to even consider being called a democratic republic, there must be accountability in elected and appointed officials to the citizens. Whistleblowers are a effective tool in preserving the ideal of democracy.
    Like (6)
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    More whistle blowers=a less corrupt government. This bill should be passed to keep the federal government’s power in check.
    Like (5)
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    Whistle blowers take huge risks and should be protected.
    Like (5)
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    Whistleblower retaliation is a big problem, and a massive impediment towards timely reporting and overall government transparency and accountability
    Like (5)
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    Whistleblowers need to be protected at the VA and in general to protect the integrity of institutions and corporations.
    Like (4)
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    Protecting whistle blowers is protecting freedom.
    Like (4)
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    Showing corrupt flaws doesn’t make you a criminal and they should get more protection.
    Like (4)
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