One of the biggest highlights of this year’s National Whistleblower Day celebration, was hearing Dr. Tommie “Toni” Savage tell her personal story of courage and suffering as a whistleblower who exposed corruption within the Army Corps of Engineers. It was a nightmare ordeal for Savage and her family who still continue to face the aftermath today. But her case led to a momentous victory for federal whistleblowers across the country.

Savage joined the Corps fresh out of high school and through her career she progressed onto leadership positions, achieving a flawless performance record, countless awards and recognitions, and working with the highest-ranking officials on multiple programs. She felt honored to be of service to her country through her work with the Corps, who became like her family and part of every major milestone in her life, from meeting her best friend and her husband of 26 years, to celebrating the birth of her children.

All of that changed when Savage discovered rampant fraud involving millions of taxpayer dollars while working on a program to design ranges for soldier training. In 2007 she reported the fraud, never expecting the backlash she would face from her supervisors and even co-workers.

 She was removed from her position, issued downgraded performance reviews  for the first time in her 20-year career, denied performance awards, subjected to racial slurs, malicious gossip, and was forced to work in an incredibly hostile environment.

“Frauds, substantiated by audits and investigations resulted in backlash, hostility, and retaliation for me, but awards, honors, and promotions for my perpetrators”, Savage recalls.

“The years I spent working late hours, taking assignments other refused, working from home, all to build a career for myself, was yanked away when I refused to go along with the fraud, waste, and abuse in my organization.”

Eventually working in this toxic environment took its psychological toll on Savage. She struggled to cope resulting in extended absences from work, and was terminated in 2009.

It was not easy getting justice through the courts, and as thousands of other whistleblowers can testify, cases often drag on for years causing even more upheaval to whistleblowers’ lives. Finally, on September 8, 2015, after filing an appeal, the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) ruled for the first time, that the creation of a hostile work environment violates the rights of federal whistleblowers under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA).

Savage closed her speech calling for bipartisan support for robust whistleblower protections, “stand with us and help us correct the injustices we have suffered by ensuring rigorous legislative protection for whistleblowers.”

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