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Johnson introduces whistle blower protection bill
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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and committee member Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) Oct. 1 introduced the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistle Blower Protection Act.

The bill is named after Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick, a psychologist at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, who was fired after questioning the over-medication of veterans being treated at the facility.  On the day of his termination, Kirkpatrick committed suicide.

The committee held a hearing Sept. 22, at which members heard testimony from VA whistle blowers, including Kirkpatrick’s brother, Sean Kirkpatrick.  The bill implements reforms to enhance whistle blower protections throughout the government.

Specifically, the bill would:

• Provide enhanced protections and expedite investigations of instances in which probationary federal employees are fired for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing within their agencies.

• Enact reforms to ensure that managers who retaliate against whistle blowers are held accountable.

• Provide the Office of Special Counsel with adequate access to information from federal agencies to allow for complete investigations and better protect whistle blowers.

• Ensure that all federal employees are informed of their rights as whistle blowers and provide training to managers on whistle blower protections.

• Establish measures to hold VA employees who improperly access the medical records of fellow VA employees accountable.