Whistleblower Protection Program for Federal Employees
The Whistleblower Protection Program was established to ensure that employees and applicants who disclose allegations of serious wrongdoing or gross mismanagement are free from fear of reprisal for their disclosures.
Disclosure by current and former Federal employees and applicants of the following types of wrongdoing are covered by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989:
- a violation of any law, rule, or regulation,
- a gross waste of funds,
- an abuse of authority, or
- a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
Other Information for Potential Whistleblowers
- Employees who report allegations of serious wrongdoing or gross mismanagement must provide sufficient information for the OIG to commence an inquiry. This is particularly important when the employee wishes to remain confidential.
- Employees are reporting parties, not investigators.
- Protection of a disclosing-employee's identity is not absolute, but will always be maintained to the fullest extent possible.
- Employees must be candid and truthful with investigators or others to whom they disclose alleged wrongdoing or mismanagement.
- An employee's right to protection against reprisal does not extend immunity for the employee's own involvement in wrongdoing or mismanagement.
Disclosures of information protected by law should be made to a Government agency, such as the OIG, that is authorized to receive and investigate such a disclosure.
What is Whistleblower Retaliation?
The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 prohibits retaliation. This means it is unlawful for agencies to take or threaten to take a personnel action against an employee because he or she disclosed wrongdoing. Personnel actions can include poor performance review, demotion, suspension or termination. In addition, the law prohibits retaliation for filing an appeal, complaint, or grievance; helping someone else file or testifying on their behalf; or cooperating with or disclosing information to the OIG. For a pamphlet prepared by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) containing more information, click on Know Your Rights When Reporting Wrongs.
Filing a Complaint of Reprisal
The VA OIG refers complainants who believe they have been improperly retaliated against to the following entities:
- The Office of Special Counsel (OSC). OSC is an independent agency enforcing whistleblower protections and certain other actions within the Federal government. Information on filing a complaint with OSC may be found on their website at www.osc.gov.
- The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Certain employees may be able to appeal directly to MSPB. More information on whistleblower MSPB appeals is available at www.mspb.gov/appeals/whistleblower.htm.
- The VA Office of Resolution Management (ORM). VA employees or applicants who believe they have been reprised against for participating in the Equal Employment Opportunity program should contact ORM at www.va.gov/orm.
The Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman
The VA OIG Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman provides education about protections for current or former VA employees who make protected disclosures. The Ombudsman coordinates with VA administrations and staff offices to increase awareness of prohibitions on whistleblower retaliation. In addition, the program disseminates information on rights and remedies against retaliation for making protected disclosures. Specifically, the Ombudsman provides employee complainants with information on how to contact organizations that address reprisal allegations.
This program was authorized by the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, which became law on November 27, 2012. By law, the Ombudsman is prohibited from acting as a complainant’s legal representative, agent, or advocate. For additional information, contact Steve Wise at firstname.lastname@example.org.