Whistleblower Protection Program

Whistleblowers perform an important service for the public, veterans, and VA when they report evidence of wrongdoing. All VA employees, contractors, subcontractors, grantees, subgrantees, and personal services contractors are protected from retaliation for making a protected disclosure.

To ensure that the VA OIG is able to start an inquiry, complainants who report allegations of serious wrongdoing or gross mismanagement must provide sufficient information. The OIG will protect the identity of complainants to the greatest extent possible. In rare instances, the OIG may disclose complainants’ identity if such disclosure becomes unavoidable during the course of its work. However, the OIG will attempt to contact the complainant before releasing his or her identity. Complainants must be candid and truthful with investigators or others to whom they disclose alleged wrongdoing or mismanagement.

A complainant’s right to protection against reprisal does not extend immunity for the complainant’s own involvement in wrongdoing or mismanagement, if applicable.

Whistleblower protection laws prohibit reprisal based on protected activity. Specifically, it is unlawful for agencies to take or fail to take, or threaten to take or fail to take, a personnel action against an employee or applicant for employment for a disclosure that the employee or applicant reasonably believes evidences violation of any law, rule, or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; abuse of authority; substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or censorship related to scientific research if censorship meets one of the above-listed categories. Personnel actions can include a 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 his or her behalf; or cooperating with or disclosing information to the OIG. For additional information prepared by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), click on Know Your Rights When Reporting Wrongs or Your Rights as a Federal Employee.

*Disclosures involving classified information or information otherwise protected by law are only protected when reported to the OIG, the OSC, or an employee designated to receive such disclosures. Contact the OSC or the OIG for more information.

A complainant’s right to protection against reprisal does not extend immunity for the complainant’s own involvement in wrongdoing or mismanagement, if applicable.

By law, the VA OIG must designate a Whistleblower Protection Coordinator (this role was formerly known as the Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman and was renamed by the Whistleblower Protection Coordination Act). The coordinator’s duties include the following:

  • Educating VA employees about prohibitions against retaliation for making protected disclosures
  • Educating employees who have made or are contemplating making a protected disclosure about the rights and remedies against retaliation for protected disclosures
  • Assisting the Inspector General in promoting the timely and appropriate handling and consideration of protected disclosures and allegations of reprisal, to the extent practicable, by the Inspector General
  • Assisting the Inspector General in facilitating communication and coordination with the Special Counsel, the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, VA, Congress, and other relevant entities regarding the timely and appropriate handling and consideration of protected disclosures, allegations of reprisal, and general matters regarding the implementation and administration of whistleblower protection laws, rules, and regulations

By law, the coordinator is prohibited from acting as a complainant’s legal representative, agent, or advocate.

The Whistleblower Protection Coordinator shall have direct access to the Inspector General as needed to accomplish the coordinator responsibilities.

Employees who would like to reach the coordinator and request additional information may contact the coordinator using the Hotline web submission form. Please write in the “additional comments” open text box that you would like to be contacted by the Whistleblower Coordinator.

The OIG does not generally investigate claims of whistleblower retaliation but may investigate the underlying complaint and may direct complainants alleging whistleblower retaliation to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) or directly to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), if appropriate. OSC has the authority not only to investigate but also to seek corrective action through the MSPB on behalf of an employee or former employee. The OIG may also direct VA employees to VA’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP), as appropriate. OAWP has statutory authority to investigate allegations of retaliation and make recommendations to the Secretary for disciplinary action.

However, the OIG may investigate complaints alleging retaliation against an employee of a VA contractor, subcontractor, grantee, or subgrantee or a personal services contractor for engaging in protected activity. These parties are also protected against whistleblower retaliation but, because they are not VA or government employees, do not have recourse through the OSC or MSPB.

The following provides additional information on the entities complainants may contact:

  • The Office of Special Counsel (OSC). OSC is an independent federal agency that enforces whistleblower protections and certain other actions for current and former federal employees and applicants for federal employment. Additional information, including information on filing a complaint with OSC, may be found at osc.gov.
  • VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP). OAWP receives, reviews, and investigates allegations made by VA employees and applicants for employment of whistleblower retaliation by VA supervisory employees and certain VA senior leaders. For more information visit the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection.
  • The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Certain employees may be able to have their whistleblower retaliation claims heard by the MSPB. More information is available at Questions and Answers About Whistleblower Appeals.
  • The VA Office of Resolution Management, Diversity & Inclusion (ORMDI). VA employees or applicants for employment who believe they have been reprised against for participating in the Equal Employment Opportunity program should contact ORMDI at Office of Resolution Management, Diversity & Inclusion.

An employee of a contractor, subcontractor, grantee, or subgrantee or personal services contractor may not be discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against as a reprisal for disclosing information to a “person or body” (listed below) that the employee reasonably believes is evidence of gross mismanagement of a federal contract or grant; a gross waste of federal funds; an abuse of authority relating to a federal contract or grant; a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or a violation of law, rule, or regulation related to a federal contract (including the competition for or negotiation of a contract or grant). (See 41 U.S.C. §§ 4705, 4712.)

The persons or bodies described above to which disclosures can be made include the following:

  • A member of Congress
  • A representative of a committee of Congress
  • The VA Inspector General or a VA employee responsible for contract oversight or management
  • An authorized official at the Department of Justice or other law enforcement agency
  • The Government Accountability Office
  • A management official or other employee of the contractor or subcontractor who has the responsibility to investigate, discover, or address misconduct within the company
  • A court or grand jury

Under 41 U.S.C. § 4712, employees of a VA contractor, subcontractor, grantee, or subgrantee or personal services contractor who make a protected disclosure about a federal grant or contract cannot be discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against as long as they reasonably believe the information they disclose is evidence of the following:

  • Gross mismanagement of a federal contract or grant
  • Waste of federal funds
  • Abuse of authority relating to a federal contract or grant
  • Substantial and specific danger to public health and safety
  • Violations of any law, rule, or regulation related to a federal contract or grant

Reports may be made on the VA OIG complaint form. Please indicate on the form that you are an employee of a contractor, subcontractor, grantee, or subgrantee or personal services contractor making a protected disclosure about a federal grant or contract. A complaint may not be brought under 41 U.S.C. §4172(b) more than three years after the date on which the alleged reprisal took place.

If the complaint alleges the type of violation described above and has not been addressed by another federal, state, judicial, or administrative proceeding initiated by the complainant, the OIG will consider it for investigation.

The complaint should include sufficient detail and support, including documentation, for the VA OIG to conduct a review to determine if an investigation is warranted.

Upon completion of the investigation, the investigation’s findings will be delivered to the Secretary and the complainant and the contractor or grantee concerned will be notified and invited to submit a record request.

Please see 41 U.S.C. § 4712 for information regarding this type of disclosure in the intelligence community.

Pursuant to the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, nondisclosure policies, forms, or agreements of the federal government with current or former employees, including those in effect before the Act’s effective date of December 27, 2012, must contain language explaining, among other things, that such agreements do not prevent whistleblower disclosure to the Inspector General. The law requires agencies to post certain information explaining this requirement.

The following statement applies to nondisclosure policies, forms, or agreements of the federal government with current or former employees, including those in effect before the Act’s effective date of December 27, 2012:

“These provisions are consistent with and do not supersede, conflict with, or otherwise alter the employee obligations, rights, or liabilities created by existing statute or Executive order relating to (1) classified information, (2) communications to Congress, (3) the reporting to an Inspector General of a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, or (4) any other whistleblower protection. The definitions, requirements, obligations, rights, sanctions, and liabilities created by controlling Executive orders and statutory provisions are incorporated into this agreement and are controlling.”

The controlling Executive Orders and statutory provisions in the event of any conflict with a nondisclosure policy, form, or agreement include, as of March 14, 2013:

  • Executive Order No. 13526 (governing classified national security information);
  • Section 7211 of Title 5, United States Code (governing disclosures to Congress);
  • Section 1034 of Title 10, United States Code as amended by the Military Whistleblower Protection Act (governing disclosure to Congress by members of the military);
  • Section 2302(b)(8) of Title 5, United States Code, as amended by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (governing disclosures of illegality, waste, fraud, abuse or public health or safety threats);
  • Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 (50 U.S.C. 421 et seq.) (governing disclosures that could expose confidential Government agents);
  • The statutes which protect against disclosure that may compromise the national security, including Sections 641, 793, 794, 798, and 952 of Title 18, United States Code; and
  • Section 4(b) of the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950 (50 U.S.C. 783(b)).