Tammy Baldwin
Press Release

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Joins Bipartisan Group of Senators in Introducing VA Patient Protection Act

Bill Forces VA to Address Reports of Patient Abuse, Punish Those Who Retaliate Against Whistleblowers; Bill Protects VA Employees Who Protect Veterans

By - Nov 24th, 2015 11:40 am

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon/VA), has joined a bipartisan group of Senators, led by U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), in introducing the VA Patient Protection Act to force the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to address reports of abuse of veteran patients and to punish VA managers who ignore, intimidate and retaliate against whistleblowers.

“More must be done to change the status quo. We must work to build a VA that embraces, rather than retaliates against, whistleblowers who want to improve the system,” Senator Baldwin said. “We need to ensure that whistleblowers are empowered and this bipartisan reform legislation will hold the VA managers accountable for unacceptable retaliation and intimidation. Most importantly, it will improve the VA so veterans can get the care and services they need and deserve.”

In order to address the challenges faced by VA employees who stand up for veterans, and to punish the managers who retaliate against whistleblowers, the VA Patient Protection Act:

  • Punishes retaliation. After the first offense of retaliation, a supervisor will receive a minimum 12-day suspension. On the second offense, they will be fired.
  • Holds supervisors accountable. Supervisors’ performance ratings will be tied to how they respond to and deal with whistleblower reports and complaints. Supervisors found to retaliate against whistleblowers would not be eligible to receive bonuses for the 1 year period beginning on the date when the determination was made and for the supervisor to must repay bonuses already paid under certain circumstances
  • Protects whistleblowers. Includes a provision Senator Baldwin championed in the MilCon/VA Appropriations Act of 2016, which will expand the Whistleblower Protection Act to prevent retaliation against VA doctors and nurses through performance reports. All VA employees will receive training about their rights as whistleblowers.
  • Ensures complaints are handled properly. Employees who report misconduct can go to the next level supervisor if their immediate supervisor fails to properly handle their complaint. Establishing a formal complaint process ensures there is a paper trail to hold the VA accountable. Creates a Central Whistleblower Office that will be responsible for investigating all whistleblower complaints.

Reports of systemic misconduct and retaliation against whistleblowers are common across the nation, including:

  • Katherine Mitchell, who first broke the VA wait list scandal, testified before the Senate MilCon/VA Appropriations Subcommittee about how she disclosed improper staffing in the emergency department and secret waitlists at the Phoenix VA. Management retaliated against Dr. Mitchell by removing her as the emergency department director.
  • A doctor at Hines VA fraudulently inflated his productivity by entering service codes for work he did not perform – an allegation substantiated by the VA’s Office of Medical Inspection – but is still employed at Hines and has not been disciplined.
  • After a VA employee in Louisiana discovered secret wait lists and filed complaints with the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG), the OIG failed to investigate the wait lists, but sent criminal investigators to investigate the whistleblower by looking into how he obtained the wait lists, confiscating computer equipment and asking him to submit to a lie detector test.
  • Instead of investigating reports of a Puerto Rico VA hospital director’s misconduct, the VA sought to remove the employee who reported the misconduct. When the privacy officer concluded the whistleblower had not made an unauthorized disclosure, the VA sought to remove her as well.
  • A VA employee in Wisconsin who reported improper disclosures of veterans’ health information was fired for sending an email – to report the misconduct – that contained personal information about a veteran.
  • A nurse at a VA in Delaware who disclosed improper treatment of opiate addiction faced retaliation in the form of a 14-day suspension for minor allegations of misconduct.
  • A VA employee in Wisconsin filed for whistleblower protection after being asked to falsify attendance records. Two weeks later, he resigned citing harassment and further disclosed problems with opioid over-prescription.

Joining Senators Baldwin and Kirk in introducing the legislation were U.S. Senators Blumenthal, Grassley, Gillibrand, Johnson, and Rubio.

Press Releases by Tammy Baldwin

Tammy Baldwin

Senator Baldwin Calls for Federal Investigations and Swift Action Regarding Hazardous Materials at Wisconsin Barrel Recycling Plants

Chemicals in barrels recycled in Wisconsin neighborhoods may have put workers, families and communities at risk

Tammy Baldwin

Baldwin, Senators Question Secretary of Defense on Reorganization of National Security Council

“We are concerned that the unprecedented elevation of a political operative to the senior leadership of the NSC may compromise the national security decision making process and put American lives at risk at home and abroad.”

Tammy Baldwin

Baldwin and Bipartisan Group of Senators Highlight Need for Quality Health Care in Rural America

More than 80 rural hospitals have closed in recent years.

Tammy Baldwin

Senators Call for Independent Prosecutor to Investigate Trump Officials’ Collusion with Russia and Apparent White House Cover-Up

Senators to Sessions: “At stake is the integrity and honesty of our most trusted public officials and the viability of our justice system”

Tammy Baldwin

U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Thom Tillis Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Support Job Creation for America’s Veterans

The BRAVE Act creates incentives for businesses to employ our veterans

Tammy Baldwin

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Will Vote to Confirm David Shulkin as Secretary of Veterans Affairs

"Dr. Shulkin has the experience and qualifications to provide the leadership necessary to get the job done..."

See More Releases

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *