WASHINGTON — Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and committee member Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) introduced the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act. The bill is named after Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick, a psychologist at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, Wis., who was fired after he questioned the over-medication of veterans being treated at the facility. Tragically, on the day of his termination, Dr. Kirkpatrick committed suicide.
On Sept. 22, the committee held a hearing, “Improving VA Accountability: First-Hand Accounts of Department of Veterans Affairs Whistleblowers,” at which members heard powerful testimony from VA whistleblowers, including Dr. Kirkpatrick’s brother, Sean Kirkpatrick. The Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act implements reforms to enhance whistleblower protections throughout the government, ensures that retaliators are held accountable, and safeguards the medical records of VA employees who also are veterans.
“The powerful testimony our committee heard from VA whistleblowers showed that the VA has a serious cultural problem when it comes to whistleblower retaliation,” Johnson said. “This legislation is directed at providing VA whistleblowers protection to help prevent tragedies like the suicide of Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick. Congress must not stand by while executive branch agencies retaliate against good people who are just trying to do the right thing. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the committee and in the Senate to ensure that these important reforms are enacted.”
“We have heard too many stories of federal employees getting punished for doing the right thing and speaking up about misconduct or mismanagement,” said Ayotte. “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.”
The Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act would:
- Provide enhanced protections and expedite investigations of instances in which probationary federal employees are fired for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing within their agencies.
- Enact reforms to ensure that managers who retaliate against whistleblowers are held accountable.
- Provide the Office of Special Counsel with adequate access to information from federal agencies to allow for complete investigations and better protect whistleblowers.
- Ensure that all federal employees are informed of their rights as whistleblowers and provide training to managers on whistleblower protections.
- Establish measures to hold VA employees that improperly access the medical records of their fellow VA employees accountable.
A copy of the legislation can be found here.