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 If you have to be a whistleblower, don’t blow it. Protect yourself and be rewarded.

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 New to the whistleblower retaliation toolbox? Malpractice reports

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 Whistleblowers gather to remind each other why they risked so much to expose wrongdoing.

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 Veterans Affairs promises better treatment for VA whistleblowers. Will it happen this time?

Dennis Gentilin of Macquarie University writes that whistleblowing will always take a toll, but it need not be career suicide. From The Conversation, which promises “academic rigor, journalistic flair.” 

 

As strange as it might sound, whistleblowers in Australia have reason to rejoice – so long as they are in the private sector.

Thanks to new laws that came into effect this month, private-sector whistleblowers have a range of new protections. This includes, in certain prescribed circumstances, the prospect of being compensated if they experience adverse outcomes after taking their concerns to the the media.

The timing is ironic, given last month Australia’s federal police launched raids on journalists and media outlets who received and published disclosures from public-sector whistleblowers. If identified and prosecuted, those whistleblowers could face lengthy prison sentences. Continue Reading It’s a new era for Australia’s whistleblowers – in the private sector

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 Animal welfare whistleblowers protect critters, farmers and our food supply.

What happens to whistleblowers is often absurd, but rarely funny, win or lose. A Google search on “whistleblower jokes” turned up the one you see in the headline and a few New Yorker cartoons. So, there’s not much whistleblower humor out there. Last night, the television show “Drunk History” took a crack at it with a segment on whistleblowers.

If you are not familiar with the show, it features comedians who sit around, drink, giggle and recount episodes from history. Each segment includes the drunken narration over reenactments by well-known actors and comedians. Saturday Night Live-vet Vanessa Bayer lip-syncs would-be Watergate whistleblower Martha Mitchell. In a wink to DC, Tony Hall of Veep plays her husband John. The series manages to be annoying, informative and funny at the same time.

Who knew that Martha Mitchell, the wife of Richard Nixon’s attorney general, was drugged to keep her from blabbing to Helen Thomas of UPI about Watergate? No one knew about the Citizen’s Committee to Investigate the FBI until 2014. That’s when members of an anti-Vietnam War group revealed that, in 1971, they had used a crowbar to break into a local FBI office and steal evidence documenting FBI surveillance of lawful activists. Continue Reading Why didn’t the whistleblower make it to work? Because he was Snow’d-en

Whistleblower laws are so under-the-radar in the UK that most people don’t know they exist. At the same time, whistleblower retaliation is rampant. The public officials designated to help whistleblowers don’t understand the laws or their roles in enforcing them “leading to confusion, mistrust on both sides and allowing crimes and other wrongdoing to escape scrutiny.”

That has to change, according to a new report from a British Parliament panel on whistleblower laws.

This report shines a light on a culture that too often supports the covering up of wrongdoing and the penalising of whistleblowers. With increasing focus on organisational culture and new global laws and regulations to support transparency and whistleblowers, the UK needs a comprehensive, transparent and accessible framework and an organisation that will support whistleblowers and whistleblowing. Continue Reading Whistleblower retaliation in the UK: Report says laws are “complicated…cumbersome, obsolete and fragmented.”

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.”

Continue Reading Whistleblowers expose hospice fraud. Can they do the same for quality-of-care?