OUR OPINION: Kirkpatrick Act deserves passage by Congress

Source: The Sioux City Journal

Given national reporting on scandals related to Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals over the last several years, it's more important than ever today that unfettered scrutiny of the VA exists.

America's vets deserve nothing less.

To this end, we support passage by Congress of the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act. The proposed legislation passed the Senate last month and has been referred to two committees in the House for consideration. Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., reintroduced the Kirkpatrick Act in March.

“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,” Ernst said in a statement following Senate passage. “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 38-year-old psychologist at the VA Medical Center in Tomah, Wis., who in 2009 took his own life after being fired for raising questions about overmedication of veterans at the center.

The bill would strengthen whistleblower protections for federal employees, ensure federal employees have greater knowledge of whistleblower protections and strengthen penalties for those within the federal government who retaliate against whistleblowers.

Properly, much of the bill applies to employees of all federal departments. Because the bill was spurred by the experience of a former VA employee whose name it bears, however, the Kirkpatrick Act speaks in particular to the nation's profound responsibility for care of its veterans.

Without question, that responsibility should include safeguards for those who blow the whistle on wrongs committed at places vets go for the support and services they earned through their service to our country.

Click here to read the article on the Sioux City Journal’s website.