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Bill targets VA whistle-blower retaliation

Bill targets VA whistle-blower retaliation
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Two GOP senators have introduced legislation to halt retaliation against whistle-blowers at the Department of Veteran Affairs.

“Congress must not stand by while executive branch agencies retaliate against good people who are just trying to do the right thing,” Sen. Ron. Johnson (R-Wis.) said in a press release.

While issues at the VA spurred the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act, introduced Thursday by Johnson and Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteAudit finds US Defense Department wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars US sends A-10 squadron to Afghanistan for first time in three years No, the US did not spend million on a gas station in Afghanistan MORE (R-N.H.), it would cover all federal employees.

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Kirkpatrick was a psychologist at the VA medical center in Tomah, Wis., who was fired after questioning the over-medication of patients there. He committed suicide the same day he was fired.

The legislation comes after a hearing the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held on VA whistleblower retaliation.

“The powerful testimony our committee heard from VA whistleblowers showed that the VA has a serious cultural problem when it comes to whistleblower retaliation,” said Johnson, chairman of the committee.

The bill would require the head of executive agencies to notify the appropriate inspector general when an employee commits suicide to determine if the suicide was work-related.

The bill would also extend protections to probationary federal employees, which Kirkpatrick was.

Other provisions of the bill include making sure the Office of Special Counsel has access to all information needed to investigate retaliation claims, allowing for the removal or demotion of an agency head who retaliates against a whistle-blower, prohibiting employees from accessing other employees’ medical records and providing training to supervisors on how to respond to whistle-blowers’ complaints.

“We have heard too many stories of federal employees getting punished for doing the right thing and speaking up about misconduct or mismanagement,” Ayotte said in the release. “This bill will put in place needed protections across the federal government and specifically at the VA while sending a clear message that retaliating against whistleblowers is unacceptable and has serious consequences.”