Marking ‘Sunshine Week,’ McCaskill Introduces Whistleblower-Protection Package

Senator introduces three bills to extend legal protections to VA, intelligence community, contractor whistleblowers

WASHINGTON – Marking “Sunshine Week”—a national initiative to promote open government and freedom of information—U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today introduced a package of bills aimed at protecting whistleblowers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government.

McCaskill’s bills would:

  • Require the firing of any Veterans Affairs employee found to have retaliated against a whistleblower,
  • Extend legal protections to federal contractors in the intelligence community, and
  • Prohibit contractors from being reimbursed for legal fees accrued in their defense against whistleblowers retaliation claims.

“Whistleblowers are the taxpayers’ best friend,” said McCaskill, a senior member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “These folks play a critical role in keeping our government accountable to its citizens by exposing waste, fraud and abuse—and we’ve got to surround them with the robust legal protections that enable them to come forward to report wrongdoing.”

McCaskill is reintroducing a bill that was first introduced in the wake of the VA scandal last year, which included claims of whistleblower retaliation. The bill mandates the firing of any VA employee found to have retaliated against a whistleblower. Currently, a finding of retaliation against a whistleblower is punishable by a range of procedures, including fines and reprimand.

McCaskill’s bill to protect whistleblowers in the intelligence community extends whistleblower protections to intelligence contractors, who are often doing similar jobs to federal employees. Last year, the same bill was endorsed by nearly 50 good government groups.

McCaskill is also introducing legislation to extend current whistleblower protections to grantees, subgrantees and subcontractors. Current protections apply only to contractors, but not to employees of grant recipients, even though the federal government plans to distribute $245 billion in grant funding in fiscal year 2015. The bill would also prohibit contractors from getting reimbursed for legal fees accrued in their defense against retaliation claims by whistleblowers.

Last year’s annual defense bill included a McCaskill provision extending whistleblower protections to all Department of Defense contractors, subcontractors, grantees and subgrantees.

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