June 23, 2017. Washington, D.C. Today President Trump signed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act into law.
The law aims to protect whistleblowers from retaliation and reprisal and will require training of all VA employees about whistleblower protections. The Veterans Affairs (VA) Whistleblower Office created by President Trump in April becomes permanent under the new law.
Specifically, the law will:
- Protect whistleblowers from retaliation by not allowing the secretary to use this authority to fire employees who have filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). The proposal would also establish an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection for employees to bring to light major problems at the VA without losing their job or facing retaliation.
- Require the VA to provide periodic training to each supervisor on the rights of whistleblowers; how to address a report by an employee of a hostile work environment, reprisal, or harassment; how to effectively motivate, manage, and reward employees; and how to effectively manage employees who are performing at an unacceptable level.
However, VA Whistleblowers are still required to pursue their cases before the MSPB and do not have the ability to bring their cases directly to the federal court system.
The National Whistleblower Center, a Washington, D.C. based whistleblower advocacy group, says this is a major flaw in the law and calls upon the public to demand federal employees be granted access to the federal court system.
The National Whistleblower Center’s full statement is reprinted below:
Statement of the National Whistleblower Center on the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act
We hope protection for VA whistleblowers is properly implemented. However, this reform law still falls short of what all federal employees need to be properly protected.
Federal employee whistleblowers must be given access to the federal court system like nearly every other whistleblower. Whistleblowers need the protection of an independent judiciary.
In 2008, the House of Representatives with bi-partisan support put forth a bill for federal court access for federal employee whistleblowers. That bill died.
In 2009, federal court access for federal employee whistleblowers was included in the Stimulus Bill. It was stripped out and killed.
President Obama made a campaign pledge to give federal employee whistleblowers access to the federal court system. It was broken.
We urge Congress to enact effective protections for VA whistleblowers, and all other government employees, by amending the Whistleblower Protection Act to permit federal workers to have their cases heard in court.