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Protecting Whistleblowers since 1977

President Trump's New Executive Order: Will it Hurt or Help Whistleblowers?

Alice Newberry, May 04, 2017

Last week, President Trump signed an executive order titled "Improving Accountability and Whistleblower Protection," which will establish a new office within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) called the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. The order intends to weed out VA employees promoting misconduct and to protect whistleblowers by allowing them to disclose wrongdoing without fear of retaliation. The Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection is expected to identify barriers that would prevent veterans from having the access and resources they deserve.

The VA has been frequently criticized for its lack of accountability. Longstanding issues prompted President Trump to make commitments to help these veterans while on the campaign trail.

Yet the VA continues to systematically retaliate against those who have worked to blow the whistle on fraud, corruption, waste and misconduct. Brandon Coleman, a marine corps veteran and addiction therapist at the Phoenix VA is among many who have witnessed unbelievable misconduct.

Coleman saw firsthand how suicidal veterans were left to walk out of the VA having received no care. Roughly 20 veterans committing suicide each day. After taking his concerns to the Office of Special Counsel, Coleman’s supervisor retaliated by delving into his personal medical records in an attempt to defame his character and eventually terminating him.

When Coleman returned to the VA for treatment as a patient, police? continued to follow him. Coleman’s heroic efforts to fix significant problems within the VA led to a long battle that continues today. Veteran can no longer be neglected by the US government, and those speaking through proper channels should not be treated as criminals.

According to USA Today, the new office will answer to VA Secretary David Shulkin. Coleman is eager to see an increase of whistleblowers working with Secretary David Shullkin to fix the problem, saying they are necessary in making the system work.

Despite the new office being put in place, concerns about the cesspool of corruption within the VA remain. Internal agency whistleblower offices may have good intentions to start but rarely have the independence and adherence to accountability of outside offices; internal agencies are often pressured to make their higher-ups look good by silencing critical wrongdoings. Additionally, the new office can act as a trojan horse – luring in and trapping whistleblowers while denying them their free speech rights, causing far more harm than good.

Now is the time for dialogue and strong implementation of whistleblower protections. Advocacy will be needed to rally around the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection on several fronts.

 

Click here to watch the signing of the executive order live.

Click here to read the executive order.