WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), combat veteran, re-introduced the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act Wednesday.
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 throughout the VA.
“Individuals who expose wrongdoing at VA medical facilities should be thanked and listened to, not silenced and subject to mistreatment,” Sen. Johnson said. “I’m pleased to partner with Sen. Ernst to ensure future whistleblowers like Dr. Kirkpatrick receive the support they deserve.”
“This commonsense legislation would help to safeguard whistleblowers who speak up about corruption and mistreatment in our VA system, and take additional steps to hold retaliators responsible,” said Senator Ernst. “Efforts to fix the VA must be protected, not punished, as we work to improve access to timely and quality care for our nation’s veterans.”
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. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act unanimously in May 2016.