NOTE: Tune into the Federal News Network for a discussion on the importance of whistleblower protection taped on Friday August 23. Host Debra Roth sits down with Tom Devine, Legal Director of the Government Accountability Project; John Kostyack, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center; and Liz Hempowicz, Director of Public Policy at the Project on Government Oversight.”


Congressional investigators say they’ve been trying to get some answers about problems at the Coast Guard Academy for more than a year.

Finally, staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Committee on Homeland Security met with the Coast Guard Academy Dean Kurt Colella last week. He brought along the assistant academy superintendent, the Coast Guard’s House liaison, the agency’s chief of congressional affairs and the director of personnel readiness, according to committee members.

Apparently, none of them had much to say. Here’s how the meeting was described in a letter from lawmakers to the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Karl L. Schultz.

“Coast Guard officials indicated that pursuant to your orders, all of the Coast Guard personnel who were present at the meeting were directed to refuse to answer any questions regarding any past events at the Academy involving either faculty or cadets,  including any questions pertaining to the OIG’s report,” wrote Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) chair of the oversight committee and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) of the homeland security committee.    
Continue Reading

Those lucky enough to get a summer vacation at the beach or in the mountains should know that whistleblowers play a role in protecting the beautiful places we visit. A cruise ship engineer reported illegal dumping. A federal environmental analyst revealed that he was told to reverse his findings to favor a developer. Environmental activists

The Washington Post has been running a series of stories on problems with forensic science. Radley Balko, a Post opinion writer focusing on civil liberties and the criminal-justice system, explains.

In covering these issues, I have found that there are lots of people willing to talk about the problems with forensics in the courtroom. But

Whistleblowers are playing a key role in revealing Medicare kickback schemes disguised as so-called patient assistance programs. In April, five separate pharmaceutical companies paid a total of $247 million for running such programs. This week, a new qui tam suit was unsealed.

Kaiser Health News offers a round up on the case:

The American Kidney Fund is supposed to help patients pay for health insurance premiums and other costs for treatment based solely on a patient’s financial need, and not favor companies that donate to it. But a new whistleblower lawsuit claims the charity created a so-called blocked list of dialysis clinics whose patients would not get financial assistance while it made sure patients at clinics operated by DaVita and Fresenius would.

The story notes that the Department of Justice declined to join the case. The lawsuit makes many of the same claims outlined in a 2016 New York Times series. Here’s what the Times reports on the new developments:

The lawsuit, filed by David Gonzalez, who worked for 12 years at the kidney fund in its patient assistance program until he left in 2015, accused the charity of creating a so-called blocked list of dialysis clinics whose patients would not get financial assistance while making sure patients at clinics operated by DaVita and Fresenius would…
Continue Reading

A round up of whistleblower news.

Whistleblower rewarded for exposing security flaws. From The New York Times

The government said the video surveillance software it bought from Cisco was “of no value” because it did not “meet its primary purpose: enhancing the security of the agencies that purchase it.” In many cases, the Cisco software actually reduced the protection provided by other security systems, the complaint said…

Lawyers for whistle blower James Glenn told the Times he was was working as a Cisco subcontractor, but was laid five months after he reported problems. When Glenn realized a year later that he could still hack into the surveillance system, he  contacted the F.B.I. Cisco has agreed to pay $8.6 million. More here from Reuters, which reports that Glenn will receive about $1 million.

Government Accountability Office on how the feds can do better

A recent GAO blog post talks about specific whistleblower issues and cases they’ve looked into.

After NASA’s Inspector General investigates potential reprisal, the NASA Administrator is responsible for determining within 30 days whether it actually happened. Whistleblowers count on a speedy resolution to their complaints.However, we found that NASA hadn’t been meeting the 30-day time frame since 2008. We recommended that NASA take steps to fix it….
Continue Reading

This year’s National Whistleblower Day event will be Tuesday, July 30. It will be broadcast live from Capitol Hill via Facebook. 

If you are going to blow the whistle, do it right, says Stephen M. Kohn, chair of National Whistleblower Center. He delivered that message Monday morning during an a live interview on The Hill’s morning news show.

“There are fantastic whistleblower laws,” he said. “But there are other ways people blow the whistle and they end up in prison. So, do it right.”

Kohn uses former banker Bradley Birkenfeld as as example of someone who did it wrong, then did it right. When he first helped expose a massive Swiss banking tax evasion scheme, he went to jail. Then Kohn took him to the IRS whistleblower office, where Birkenfeld was awarded a record $104 million.


Continue Reading

Note: To hear from whistleblowers themselves, tune into the National Whistleblower Day event on Tuesday.

The National Physicians Malpractice Database is supposed to protect patients. Now, one Vermont whistleblower says it is being used to punish her for filing a complaint against the former head of anesthesiology of White River Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The Boston Globe reports that Dr. Jennifer Keller was fired in October after she leveled allegations of assault, medical negligence, and whistleblower retaliation against the doctor. She was one of four female employees at White River Junction who filed whistleblower complaints against Dr. Fima Lenkovsky with the VA’s Office of Special Counsel. The paper reports the agency is investigating the allegations after determining they contained a “substantial likelihood of wrongdoing.”

The story notes that Keller continues to teach at Dartmouth College medical school. But her lawyer tells the Globe that the VA has accused Keller of delivering poor care and has reported her dismissal to the National Practitioner Data Bank. While not open to the public, the database can be used by health facilities to screen applicants.   

The story includes a quote that will sound familiar to anyone who has worked with whistleblowers.

“This has shaken me to my soul,” said Keller.“I am naive, and this has been an ugly process.”


Continue Reading

Bulletproof vests that don’t work. Russian money laundering. US tax cheats with Swiss bank accounts. No-bid, sweetheart government contracts.

Once a year, whistleblowers and their supporters gather to remind each other why they risked so much to expose wrongdoing. This year’s National Whistleblower Day event will be Tuesday, July 30. It will be broadcast live from Capitol Hill on Facebook. It is one of several events and panels underway this week as part of the annual Whistleblower Summit.

From the National Whistleblower Center:

National Whistleblower Day will commemorate the 241st anniversary of America’s first whistleblower law, and celebrate the contributions of whistleblowers to democracy.The event will feature speakers including whistleblowers, lawmakers, and other public officials.

More from the NWC on some of the speakers, with video from past events:


Continue Reading

President Trump promised better protections for Veterans Affairs whistleblowers. But, VA staff say the office set up to protect them actually works against them.

On Tuesday, the head of the office testified that they would do better. From USA Today:

Tamara Bonzanto, who took over as assistant VA secretary overseeing the office in January, said she and VA Secretary Robert Wilkie “understand the sense of urgency to improve operations” and her staff is “actively working” to implement changes to “better protect whistleblowers.”

Also on Tuesday, a New Hampshire VA Medical Center doctor and whistleblower was killed in a one-car crash in Hampton, New Hampshire. William “Ed” Kois, MD, head of the Manchester VA’s spinal clinic, worked with the Boston Globe on a series of stories about poor care at the hospital. The reporting led to reforms and Kois “became the face of the whistleblowers,” according to a tribute in Manchester news site Ink Link. Kois called the VA’s ultimate dismissal of some of his claims “a complete whitewash.”

Whistleblowers have played key roles in exposing poor care at some of the nation’s VA hospitals. In June, the committee heard testimony from three VA health care employees who said agency officials have been trying to silence them since they reported patient care problems. Prior to that meeting, their stories were detailed by USA Today.

A report on the Tuesday hearing from a veteran’s run site called ConnectingVets offered some details of Bonzanto’s testimony.
Continue Reading

Whistleblowers often speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. This week, several stories touched on efforts to protect fish and farm animals.

  • A new, EU-based “Fishyleaks” website allows anonymous reporting of overfishing and other violations of fishing industry rules. From the Guardian:

The group says it has received footage of fishing boats illegally dumping non-valuable dead fish at sea. In March, it accused government agencies of turning a blind eyes to “rampant” rule-breaking in the fishing industry after no undersized cod were reported landed last year, despite EU regulations that boats are no longer allowed to discard any undersized fish they catch.

Whistleblower laws and some reporting programs are complex, so here at the NWC, whistleblowers are advised to have legal representation. And, the security of online reporting programs can vary. Fishyleaks acknowledges that “there are always some risks involved,” and they offer tips on how to minimize exposure.
Continue Reading