This week the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 moves to the House of Representatives after being passed by the Senate in May. The House Committee on Rules will meet on Tuesday October 10th to discuss the bill. The bill creates further protections for certain federal government whistleblowers. President Trump first took action in this area in with an Executive Order on whistleblowers working at the Department of Veterans Affairs. This action was later codified in a bill signed by the President in June. The new bill is not extremely extensive, but it addresses some issues pertinent to government whistleblowers.
The bill covers disciplinary actions for supervisors who retaliate against whistleblowers that include suspension and reduction in pay for a first time offense. It also details a process by which a second offense of retaliation by a supervisor can lead to removal of the supervisor after notice and a chance to present evidence is given. The bill also covers procedures when a government whistleblower commits suicide.
The second half of the bill specifically with VA employees and protects their privacy. The first section prevents unauthorized access into the medical records of employees at the VA. The second section covers outreach of mental health services to employees of the VA. The third section requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to ensure that protocols are in place to address threats against employees of the VA.
In sum the general purpose of this bill is to provide additional whistleblower protections against retaliation for federal employees and create a discipline system for supervisors who do retaliate against employees. The secondary purpose relates directly the VA employees and their protection from external threats. This bill constitutes one of the first legislative actions related to whistleblowers in the Trump administration. However, the bill is very limited in its scope and does not contain any wholesale changes to current whistleblower law as it stands under the False Claims Act.
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