McCaskill bill would protect VA whistleblowers

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said Friday that she would introduce a bill to protect whistleblowers within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“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,” McCaskill said.

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Her bill would require the firing of any VA employee who retaliates against a whistleblower. Currently, retaliation is punishable by reprimand or fines, but not termination of employment.

“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,” McCaskill said.

Her bill comes after reports that whistleblower complaints about VA healthcare claim backlogs were covered up at some facilities by falsifying wait time lists.

Conferees from both chambers are trying to work out differences between legislation that would allow some veterans to receive healthcare outside the VA system and give the VA secretary power to fire some employees involved in the scandal.