Medicare and Medicaid are the deep pockets of the federal budget, paying out nearly $1 trillion in 2018. So, it’s no wonder the programs are targets for fraudsters. Some steal from the sick. Some steal money meant to soothe the dying.

So, a new Department of Health and Human Services report on poor quality hospice care is a reminder: Whistleblowers, who have helped expose hospice billing fraud under the False Claims Act, may also have a role in ensuring quality care. It is essential to protect the False Claims Act to target cases of Medicaid or Medicare fraud.

Increasingly, billing for substandard care is considered a form of fraud, attorney Nina Zhang wrote on the American Bar Association website in March.

The False Claims Act (FCA) has emerged, for better or for worse, as a quality enforcement tool. With quality of care as an ever-moving target by the federal government (with the constant development of new quality measures), the FCA has faced its share of criticism as too blunt of an instrument to regulate quality of healthcare, a matter that many argue is better left to the states under their police power…However, it can be argued that since the federal government is the biggest buyer of healthcare, it thus has a stake in how its monies are used.”

Whistleblower hospice cases generally involve care that was not needed or never delivered. In June, a Los Angeles doctor was charged in a $33 million fraud scheme that involved hospice care. Last year, a nurse blew the whistle on a for-profit hospital chain. Caris Healthcare agreed to repay $8 million for submitting hospice bills for patients who were ineligible for the because they were not terminally ill.  Sometimes billing and quality of care are intertwined. In a 2018 Texas case, a doctor told an informant that the way you make money on hospice patients “is by keeping them alive as long as possible.”


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The financial whistleblower program at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has been busy, most lately announcing a $2 million award to “two model whistleblowers who provided the agency with significant information that prompted the CFTC to open an investigation….The multiple interviews and numerous documents the whistleblowers provided were highly informative and formed the basis of the CFTC’s investigation.”

its largest whistleblower awardIn June, the agency announced  a $2.5 million award, which followed a $1.5 million reward announced in May. The agency reports awarding more than $87 million to whistleblowers between 2014 and 2018.

The agency is committed to the program, according to a quote from director James McDonald in a press release announcing the May award.

Today’s award stands as one in a growing line of whistleblower awards that show the Commission’s continued commitment to the program. Whistleblowers have become an integral part of our enforcement efforts, and I expect that trend to continue going forward.
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A guest post from Dean Zerbe, senior policy analyst for the National Whistleblower Center and former tax counsel for the Senate Finance Committee.

Tax whistleblowers had good news the other day with the Taxpayer First Act of 2019 (Public Law 116-25) being signed into law – including anti-retaliation protections for tax whistleblowers as well

“An employee of the Department of Housing and Urban Development may not ask his secretary to type his personal correspondence during duty hours.”

That is one example in the federal code of regulations of a personal task executive branch employees are not allowed to assign to government staff.

CNN reports that an unnamed congressional committee has been told by whistleblowers that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used members of his security patrol to pick up his dogs, his son and his Chinese food.

Democrats on a key House congressional committee are investigating allegations from a whistleblower within the State Department about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his family’s use of taxpayer-funded Diplomatic Security — prompting agents to lament they are at times viewed as “UberEats with guns”.

Congressional investigators, who asked for the committee not to be named as they carry out their inquiries, tell CNN that a State Department whistleblower has raised multiple issues over a period of months, about special agents being asked to carry out some questionable tasks for the Pompeo family.

“These are not the kind of people who go around complaining,” retired Rear Admiral John Kirby told CNN.


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Do not underestimate Army Corp of Engineers whistleblower Bunny Greenhouse. A stern, elegant woman who favors sprawling floral lapel pins, she could be mistaken for the schoolteacher she once was. And, don’t think that time and retirement have tempered Greenhouse. The woman who objected to no-bid contracts for Iraq War contractors still has something to say.

Tonight, Friday June 28, the CBS show “Whistleblowers” includes a segment on her story as part of the last episode of the season. The program also includes an interview with Michael D. Kohn, a board member of the National Whistleblower Center and one of Greenhouse’s lawyers.

Bunny Greenhouse

“I never considered myself as a whistleblower,” she tells host Alex Ferrer. “I was doing the work I had taken the oath of office to do. But I still became the skunk in the park.”

Bunnatine Greenhouse was in charge of procurement for the Army Corps of Engineers and she took her job seriously. In 2003, she objected to a secret, no-bid contract guaranteeing Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root, billions of dollars for services related to the invasion of Iraq. Unsatisfied with the response to questions she raised, she took her concerns to Congress in 2005.  Thus began a long battle between Greenhouse and the Corps. She was demoted, her glowing job evaluations turned sour and she was sidelined.

Still, she tells Ferrer: “I learned to not let fear paralyze me.”
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Social media executives testified on Wednesday that they are determined to keep terrorist content off their sites, but the members of Congress who summoned them had doubts.

The House Committee on Homeland Security heard testimony from representatives of Facebook, Twitter, and Google.

“On terrorist content our view is simple: There is no space on Facebook for terrorists,” Monika Bickert of Facebook told the committee.

However, committee chair Bennie Thompson said social media platforms have proven “they were unable to comply” with demands to control content.


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Whistleblowers from Department of Veteran’s Affairs hospitals offered dramatic testimony Tuesday about how they had been punished after raising quality-of-care issues. They also say the VA’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection offers little protection from retribution.

The oversight subcommittee of the House Veterans Affairs committee heard from both whistleblowers and advocates on what was described as a “culture problem” within the VA.

Minu Aghevli, who runs the opioid treatment program for the VA’s Maryland Health Care System, raised concerns about the handling of waiting list statistics about five years ago. Since then, Aghevli told the committee, she has been the subject of “constant harassment, scrutinizing and frivolous investigations.”

The retaliation and threats have continued, said Aghevli, who noted that she learned the day before the hearing that she was being “terminated” from her job.

Katherine Mitchell, MD, won a “public servant of the year” award from the VA after she disclosed understaffing and inadequate triage training at the Phoenix VA medical center’s emergency room. That did not protect her from retaliation, which she said has been  “extreme and ongoing.”

Still, Mitchell said she had no choice: There is “no other way to stop patients dying…Until leadership improves, employees will act as a safety-net.”


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6/27 Update:  The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) will seek access to the trial of accused whistleblower David McBride, according to Commonwealth lawyers, who say the national broadcaster has expressed an interest in influencing orders affecting the trial.

Mr McBride, 55, was greeted outside the ACT Supreme Court this morning by a group of protesters supporting his case, holding signs with statements like “protect whistleblowers, defend democracy”.


The recent arrest of an Australian whistleblower and police raids on journalists’ offices have triggered movement toward stronger whistleblower protection laws in that country.  Another case in the Australian news is a reminder that whistleblowers often give up beloved careers to expose wrongdoing.

In one a recent case, a federal judge was quoted calling Australia’s whistleblower laws “technical, obtuse and intractable.”

From The Guardian:

Transparency campaigners have welcomed attorney general Christian Porter’s announcement that whistleblower protections will be strengthened, while urging him to establish a new whistleblower protection authority, create a compensation scheme and shield a broader range of people.

Porter on Friday flagged his intention to overhaul public sector whistleblower protections, in an attempt to make the system simpler and more accessible to government employees.

More from The New York Times on David William McBride, who is charged with leaking classified military documents to Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalists. McBride admits to leaking documents that led to a story on Australian special forces in Afghanistan.


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Bow_of_the_Caribbean_Princess,_Liverpool_(geograph_2977707)
Caribbean Princess

Princess Cruises “depends on the oceans. We are committed to environmental practices that set a high standard for excellence and responsibility and help preserve the marine environment.” Its “Planet Princess” web page describes how the company does that through voluntary “environmental certification” and efforts to minimize air and water pollution.

The Department of Justice tells a different story. On Monday, the DOJ announced that the company was fined $20 million after violating the terms of probation from a 2017 citation for dumping polluted water into the ocean. This update notes that they continue to illegally dump plastic overboard as well.

A whistleblower – one of the ship’s engineers — originally brought that case to the authorities. That’s how regulators get most of their cases these days, according to a  Department of Justice official who spoke at a panel on the topic in April.
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