On May 18, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill requiring whistleblower training for all employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The bipartisan VA Office of Inspector General Training Act of 2021 aims to counter a well-documented culture of whistleblower retaliation at the agency by mandating training developed by the VA Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
Representatives Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and David B. McKinley (R-WV) cosponsored the legislation and Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and John Boozman (R-AR) cosponsored a version of the bill in the Senate.
The act mandates that the VA provide training to all employees on reporting waste, fraud, and abuse to the VA OIG. This training, which is to be developed by the VA OIG, will also include information on the anti-retaliation protections afforded to VA whistleblowers. Without proper training, employees often lack the skills required to spot fraud and abuse and are often unaware of the protections afforded to them as whistleblowers.
The bill would also allow the VA OIG to send department-wide emails at least twice a year without having to obtain prior permission from the VA Secretary, as is currently the case. According to Senator Hassan’s press release, “[t]his would allow the VA OIG to send an email to employees on National Whistleblower Day as well.”
“Every dollar spent on oversight initiatives through the OIG at VA yields approximately $21 in returns – and most importantly, these oversight initiatives ensure that every veteran receives the world-class care and benefits they have earned,” said Representative Underwood. “I’m pleased that the House passed my VA OIG Training Act, which will empower VA employees to report waste, fraud, and abuse to VA’s OIG and promote accountability at VA, and I urge the Senate to pass this bipartisan bill swiftly.”
“There have been far too many preventable tragedies at our VA facilities across the country,” said Representative McKinley. “This bill takes action to change the culture of the VA facilities and works to restore confidence in the quality of care given to our deserving veterans. This bill will ensure VA employees have the tools and training they need to report concerns regarding the quality of care being provided, as well as any suspicions of waste, fraud and abuse that may be occurring at a VA facility.”