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Shield of law for VA whistleblowers about to get stronger again

The effort to shore up the Department of Veterans Affairs and counter the view of President Trump that the agency is the most corrupt in government continues. The latest move happened last week when the House of Representatives passed yet another bill expanding protections for potential VA whistleblowers. The measure passed the Senate in May and garnered a rare show of unity in the House – passing the chamber 420-0.

As we have observed before, the VA bears the stigma of being a symbol of all that is wrong with the federal government. One of the biggest complaints is that there are too many bad actors in the VA ranks – especially in the administrative echelons. Critics say current employee rights laws make it too difficult to weed out the bad actors efficiently. Additionally, there are concerns that employees who try to make a difference by blowing the whistle become victims of illegal job retaliation.

What the law does

The new measure takes yet another step to protect possible whistleblowers by extending existing rules to workers who are still in probationary periods. Another provision requires the agency to ensure that workers are trained about their rights. At the same time, the law makes clear that supervisors face minimum consequences if they retaliate against employees for speaking up.

The so-called Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act is named for a VA psychologist who committed suicide in 2009. On the day he took his life, he had been fired for raising concerns that some patients were being overmedicated. Investigators later determined his concerns were justified.

No one would argue that such measures are not needed to restore confidence in the VA system. Workers deserve strong support when they speak out on behalf of our deserving veterans. At the same time, employees should take heart knowing that if feel driven to dispute adverse actions against them, there are experienced attorneys ready to help them.

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