Employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs would be required to take a 45-minute whistleblower training course under legislation introduced July 23 in the Senate.
The whistleblower training currently offered at the VA is optional for employees, and many opt not to take it, according to a press release about the bill.
“VA employees must know to speak up if they see concerns with veterans’ care or other waste, fraud and abuse,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., one of the bill sponsors.
The proposal would require VA employees to take the training once but would allow the agency’s Office of Inspector General to send emails to VA employees twice a year without the VA secretary’s approval.
“Our veterans deserve nothing short of high-quality care, and the Inspector General’s Office plays an important role in helping ensure the VA is meeting its lawful obligations,” bill sponsor Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said.
“Our bill will help foster cooperation between VA employees and the Inspector General so that reporting wrongdoing is a process all employees are trained in. Protecting our former servicemembers from negligence or willful misconduct must be a top priority.”
According to the VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, 495 cases were investigated by the office in the past year, and another 569 cases were referred to individual VA offices for their own investigations.
And the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection reported that over 354,000 people had been trained in whistleblower rights and protections as of June 2021.
That training is already mandatory and separate from the training on waste, fraud and abuse proposed in the legislation.
“Effective oversight depends on VA employees reporting wrongdoing and cooperating fully with VA Office of Inspector General investigations, inspections, audits, and evaluations. Early and accurate reporting by VA staff can save patients’ lives, protect VA employees, ensure veterans timely receive needed benefits and services, and recoup billions of dollars in monetary recoveries and avoided costs,” said VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal in the news release.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.