Women’s History Month began as just a weeklong event in 1981, and a few years later in 1987, Congress designated March of the same year as “Women’s History Month.” According to a Library of Congress website, “[s]ince 1995, presidents have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as ‘Women’s History Month.’”
WNN recently had the opportunity to interview four incredible women whistleblowers. One pair never worked directly with each other but voiced health and safety concerns regarding children in the place they both worked, while the other duo fought together for years and years to be heard after blowing the whistle on a huge fraud scheme.
Check out these incredible whistleblowing stories from four women in their own words: Kait Hess and Lauren Reinhold, who blew the whistle on living conditions for immigrant children at Fort Bliss Detention Center, and Sarah Carver and Jennifer Griffith, who raised the alarm about a fraud involving the Social Security Administration, corrupt judges and doctors, and disability benefits.
“It was shocking to all of us.” — WNN Exclusive Interview with Immigration Detention Center Whistleblowers Lauren Reinhold and Kait Hess
In this interview, Jane Turner, FBI whistleblower and host of the Whistleblower of the Week podcast talks with Lauren Reinhold and Kait Hess. Both Reinhold and Hess were federal employees from different agencies: in 2021, they answered the call to serve as volunteer detailees at an Emergency Intake Site (EIS) at Fort Bliss, Texas.
The site at Fort Bliss was set up by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The goal of the facility was to serve an influx of immigrant children entering the U.S. during that time, and job postings for federal employees opened. The employees were to serve as temporary detailees at ORR’s sites.
Both Reinhold and Hess applied and served as detailees at Fort Bliss; in their interview with Turner, they describe the horrific conditions the children were forced to live in. “I was just speechless,” Hess says. Reinhold agrees, adding, “It was crowded, it was noisy, it was chaos.”
Reinhold and Hess talk about the heartbreaking stories of the immigrant children they served at Fort Bliss — they describe a serious lack of case manager support, with some children going days and even weeks without speaking with their case managers. Not only that, the living conditions for the children were despicable: Hess and Reinhold talk about children who lacked shoes, socks, and underwear and their personal efforts to try and remedy unclear laundry situations for some children.
Reinhold and Hess also describe confusion over who was in charge of the site, stating that there was no organizational chart. “I had no idea how the chain of command even was laid out,” Hess says. In Reinhold’s letter to Congress, which was sent jointly with another Fort Bliss whistleblower Arthur Pearlstein, it was alleged that the federal contractors working on the site had no childcare experience.
Finally, Reinhold and Hess talk with Turner about their frustrations that the issue of immigrant children’s treatment at facilities has largely faded from public attention and the lack of closure from their whistleblowing. Listen to this powerful episode featuring two determined, courageous whistleblowers here.
WNN Exclusive Interview with Social Security Whistleblowers Sarah Carver and Jennifer Griffith: Parts 1 and 2
Jane Turner recently talked with Sarah Carver and Jennifer Griffith, whistleblowers who exposed an over half a billion dollar defrauding of the Social Security Administration. The scheme was constructed by eccentric lawyer Eric C. Conn, who profited off of a scheme involving disability benefits and corrupt judges and doctors. The unbelievable story is documented in “The Big Conn,” a four-episode docuseries on AppleTV+, and Carver and Griffith star in the series that dives into “Mr. Social Security” and the fraudulent activity he committed.
In this episode, which is split up into two parts, Carver and Griffith tell their story in their own words: they divulge things not seen in the docuseries and detail their whistleblowing and retaliation stories. Carver and Griffith begin by telling Turner and the audience about their journey to working for the Social Security Administration and then talk about the moment they realized there was something different about Eric Conn.
“Every time you disclosed something, there was some form of retaliation.” Both Carver and Griffith tried to tackle the fraud they were witnessing in their office but to no avail – instead, they experienced extreme retaliation. Carver’s tires were slashed and she was followed. Griffith had so much work-related stress that she would feel sick coming into work. Both were isolated from their coworkers and shunned for trying to speak truth to power.
Carver and Griffith talk about what gave them strength in continuing on their whistleblower journey, their trips to D.C. that aimed to raise awareness of the issues going on in their corner of the Social Security Administration (trips that were largely unsuccessful). They also talk with Turner about the accountability they’d like to see from Social Security and debut a special announcement. Hear their story here: part 1 and part 2.
More Powerful Women Whistleblowers
Check out this post from the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) that features several more inspiring women whistleblowers, whose disclosures span decades and industries. One thing is for sure: blowing the whistle takes strength, courage, and a dedication to doing what’s right.