The U.S. House passed a federal whistle blower protection bill Thursday named for a former VA psychologist who questioned over-medication of patients at the Tomah VA Medical Center.
The Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act is designed to protect federal employees who come forward with allegations of waste, fraud and abuse and to set minimum disciplinary measures for supervisors found guilty of retaliation.
The bill also requires the VA to put together a plan to prevent supervisors from improperly accessing an employee’s medical files in retaliation.
Kirkpatrick killed himself in 2009 the same day he was fired after questioning over-medication practices at the Tomah VA, which earned the nickname “Candy Land” because doctors there prescribed such high doses of opiates. Investigations later blamed those prescription practices for the deaths of at least two veterans.
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, whose district includes the Tomah VA, spoke on the House floor in favor of the bill.
“Dr. Kirkpatrick was dedicated to improving the lives (of) and serving our nation’s veterans,” Kind said. “The bill before us today will honor the memory of Dr. Kirkpatrick by helping to make sure no one will have to go through what he did.”
The bill, introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson, passed the House unanimously and now heads to President’s desk.
Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, said the passage brings the nation "
one step closer to better protecting federal whistleblowers and providing better health care to the finest among us – our veterans."
VA Secretary David Shulkin has pledged to bring greater accountability to the government’s second largest agency, which provides medical care to millions of veterans. In July, Shulkin began posting employee disciplinary actions and announced that he would require approval by a senior official of any settlement with a VA employee over the amount of $5,000, citing unnecessary payments to bad employees. A month later, he ordered a review to expand VA reporting requirements for bad workers.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump described the VA as the “most corrupt,” promising to “protect and promote honest employees” at the VA who expose wrongdoing.