WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a combat veteran, issued the following statements after the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act was approved unanimously by the Senate Thursday:
“The dedicated men and women who take a risk to expose wrongdoing and waste in the federal government deserve the respect and support of our nation,” Sen. Johnson said. “Unfortunately, too often these courageous individuals are subjected to retaliation in an attempt to silence them. This must stop, and I’m pleased the Senate acted today to support veterans and whistleblowers across the federal government by passing the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act.”
“When there are acts of corruption and mismanagement at the VA, we must make sure whistleblowers are protected when they come forward about this mistreatment so that we can address it,” Sen. Ernst said. “It is so important that we make sure our veterans are receiving the quality and timely care they deserve. I’m grateful to work with Senator Johnson to move this legislation through the Senate and become one step closer to better protecting our whistleblowers and improving our VA system.”
The bill is named for Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick, a whistleblower from the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, Wis., who took his own life after being fired for questioning excessive prescription practices at the facility. Dr. Kirkpatrick’s brother, Sean, testified at a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing in September 2015 about the retaliation his brother faced after blowing the whistle about the wrongdoing at the Tomah facility. This bill implements a number of suggestions he made at the hearing to improve whistleblower protections at the VA and across the federal government.
The legislation will strengthen penalties for those who retaliate against whistleblowers, add protections for probationary period employees, and ensure federal employees have a greater knowledge of whistleblower protections.