Is VA oversight making it easier to fire whistleblowers?

posted at 1:21 pm on February 16, 2016 by Jazz Shaw

We’ve been following with great interest the efforts of Congress to make it somewhat easier to fire negligent or even criminal workers and executives in federal agencies such as the VA. (And we’ve seen how well that’s been going so far, which is to say, not well at all.) But in their efforts to introduce a bit more accountability on the part of the taxpayer, have they opened the door to new problems in the form of allowing whistleblowers to be booted out of the system while the undeserving remain on the job? That’s the case being argued by Lynne Bernabei and Alan R. Kabat at Government Executive Magazine this week.

Most recently, Congress (this time under Republican control) has joined the executive branch’s war on federal employees by proposing legislation that would severely curtail the due process and other civil service rights of federal employees. These bills in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform would directly harm whistleblowers by making it much easier for agencies to demote or terminate them, and much harder for whistleblowers to challenge adverse personnel actions.

Congress already eviscerated civil service protections for members of the Senior Executive Service in the Veterans Affairs Department, by making it much easier for the agency to demote or fire them, and by limiting judicial review to a single administrative judge of the MSPB, with less than one month allowed for appeals. Even if an SES member claims that the agency fired her because she reported misconduct, the board and the Federal Circuit no longer have any role in protecting SES members at VA. Thus, VA can get rid of SES members who the agency does not like, including those who are whistleblowers.

At first glance this is worth a look because the one thing we absolutely don’t want to be doing is allowing bad actors in positions of authority to quickly remove those who would report their violations. But I’m not sure how well this argument stands up to the smell test. First of all, the Inspectors General should be the ones looking out for the whistleblowers and ensuring that the provisions of the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act are enforced. If you’re accusing the IGs of being corrupt and helping get rid of “troublemakers” then we have an entirely different problem on our hands. But given the number of high profile cases being turned over for investigation these days it seems as if the job is getting done.

The second part of the argument being put forward by the authors strikes me as being even more specious. They invoke the phrase, limiting judicial review to a single administrative judge of the MSPB in their justification. Regular readers are already familiar with all we’ve been learning of the MSPB this year and it sounds like federal employees have little or nothing to worry about on that score. They’ve reviewed three cases of dismissal or demotion at the VA just since last month, two for egregious violations and what amounted to embezzlement of taxpayer funds, and all three of them were overturned. That’s a pretty good batting average if you get accused of wrongdoing in the federal government.

If there is retribution being dealt out to any well meaning whistleblowers it needs to stop, but they seem to have plenty of resources available. Every department has its own hotline they can call at the IG’s office without having to deal with their superiors. And if they do wind up being fired there is always the press. They seem to love reporting on stories like this these days and the worker should be able to get their job back with compensation for the illegal dismissal. It sounds to me like some of our federal employees are just a bit too concerned about the possibility of anyone losing their jobs, no matter how poorly they perform.

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Comments

Why not carve out exemptions for whistleblowers?

Oh wait….nevermind. Firing them is so much more simple. Duh.

goflyers on February 16, 2016 at 1:29 PM

Dipping my toe in. Is it safe to post? Will the rug be yanked out from under us again?

Mother of Pearl on February 16, 2016 at 1:31 PM

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➥➥➥­­➥➥➥ https://facebook.com/hotaircrazytalk

shawk on February 16, 2016 at 1:33 PM

Dipping my toe in. Is it safe to post? Will the rug be yanked out from under us again?

Mother of Pearl on February 16, 2016 at 1:31 PM

They’re working on it! And I am assured that it will still be safe to post from here on out!

cynccook on February 16, 2016 at 1:35 PM

I wish they wouldn’t change *sniff*

Tard on February 16, 2016 at 1:37 PM

Thanks cyncook. Just feels like they messed with us yesterday.

Mother of Pearl on February 16, 2016 at 1:38 PM

And, to rehire total scummy failing managers.

Schadenfreude on February 16, 2016 at 1:41 PM

They seem to love reporting on stories like this these days and the worker should be able to get their job back with compensation for the illegal dismissal.

The current group of so call journalists were trained in the school of the grassy knoll and Woodward and Bernstein. That is what fuels all the bullshit the public is fed. It is like the MSM has hit on the unified field theory of crowd control. I’m not sure how the hell we are ever going to fix it.

Limerick on February 16, 2016 at 1:48 PM

WE are the only product HA has. If they run us off, the basically have a lame version of Townhall.

After 8000+ posts yesterday 100% negative, I think the are reconsidering.

Without us they have no value-added. Thousands yesterday said “I only come here for the comments” and similar. WE are the product!

Who is John Galt on February 16, 2016 at 1:49 PM

Face it, we have some of the smartest and funniest posters on the entire ‘net.

Who is John Galt on February 16, 2016 at 1:52 PM

Reminds me of Japanese death row.
The prisoner does not know his execution day until the morning of.
In some cases he finds out when take him to the gallows.

Bubba Redneck on February 16, 2016 at 1:53 PM

Sooo-what happened to the vaulted ‘change’? Hmmm
Second thought about scr*wing us over maybe?

annoyinglittletwerp on February 16, 2016 at 1:53 PM

Thanks cyncook. Just feels like they messed with us yesterday.

Mother of Pearl on February 16, 2016 at 1:38 PM

I’m sure it wasn’t intentional. I just made up a new fake Facebook account and fake Yahoo email address. I’m enjoying making many rude comments on Yahoo new stories, so there’s always a silver lining, I guess!

cynccook on February 16, 2016 at 1:54 PM

WE are the only product HA has. If they run us off, the basically have a lame version of Townhall.

After 8000+ posts yesterday 100% negative, I think the are reconsidering.

Without us they have no value-added. Thousands yesterday said “I only come here for the comments” and similar. WE are the product!

Who is John Galt on February 16, 2016 at 1:49 PM

___

Face it, we have some of the smartest and funniest posters on the entire ‘net.

Who is John Galt on February 16, 2016 at 1:52 PM

All true!
He who has eyes, read!

Bubba Redneck on February 16, 2016 at 1:54 PM

Is that bill blowing on a dog whistle???

Indiana Jim on February 16, 2016 at 1:55 PM

Sooo-what happened to the vaulted ‘change’? Hmmm
Second thought about scr*wing us over maybe?

annoyinglittletwerp on February 16, 2016 at 1:53 PM

Yeah, no, twerp. What do you think of my new FB identity… Zsa Zsa Abhor? I wanted FacebookSucks but it wouldn’t let me.

cynccook on February 16, 2016 at 1:55 PM

You know guys, Jazz showed us all a helluva lot of respect last night. I get all the anger, I don’t get your dismissal of his posts today.

Limerick on February 16, 2016 at 1:56 PM

Why not carve out exemptions for whistleblowers?

goflyers on February 16, 2016 at 1:29 PM

It’s not trivial to define who exactly is a whistleblower.

Tlaloc on February 16, 2016 at 1:57 PM

cynccook on February 16, 2016 at 1:55 PM

I wear political pins on my work vest, and discuss religion and politics with everyone-still the choice to ‘out’ myself to people should be MY choice rather than HA’s.

YOU know my real name-but that was my choice.
Btw Zsz Zsa Abhor is great!

annoyinglittletwerp on February 16, 2016 at 1:58 PM

It’s not trivial to define who exactly is a whistleblower.

Tlaloc on February 16, 2016 at 1:57 PM

I would think anyone who files a complaint about employee misconduct would fall into that class.

goflyers on February 16, 2016 at 2:03 PM

Agree with poster who wrote – without the comments, this is just Townhall, and I pretty much gave up on that years ago, except for the quick glance every now and then.

I don’t use facebook, and won’t. If these comments go facebook only, I’m one of those who will be gone from this site for good.

Tom Servo on February 16, 2016 at 2:05 PM

I wear political pins on my work vest, and discuss religion and politics with everyone-still the choice to ‘out’ myself to people should be MY choice rather than HA’s.

YOU know my real name-but that was my choice.
Btw Zsz Zsa Abhor is great!

annoyinglittletwerp on February 16, 2016 at 1:58 PM

You don’t have to out yourself, just make up an alternate FB profile. Personally, I’m pretending that I’ve faked my own death and am trying to throw a Mexican drug cartel off my trail.

cynccook on February 16, 2016 at 2:05 PM

cynccook on February 16, 2016 at 2:05 PM

I’ve got an idea for a name. It’s one that combines two of my interests.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 16, 2016 at 2:07 PM

cynccook on February 16, 2016 at 2:05 PM

I’ve got an idea for a name. It’s one that combines two of my interests.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 16, 2016 at 2:07 PM

Golda Tiburon.
hmmm.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 16, 2016 at 2:09 PM

Tom Servo. Bunch of us are setting up shop at hotgas.net.

Indiana Jim on February 16, 2016 at 2:15 PM

cynccook on February 16, 2016 at 2:05 PM

I’ve got an idea for a name. It’s one that combines two of my interests.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 16, 2016 at 2:07 PM

Golda Tiburon.
hmmm.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 16, 2016 at 2:09 PM

LOL! Better jump on it before it’s taken!

cynccook on February 16, 2016 at 2:15 PM

setup FB page for them…good to go then…

dmacleo on February 16, 2016 at 2:16 PM

I would think anyone who files a complaint about employee misconduct would fall into that class.

goflyers on February 16, 2016 at 2:03 PM

So let’s take the case of an employee who has been grossly negligent. All they have to do is file a complaint about another employee and they become essentially impossible to fire, regardless of the accuracy of their complaint. How do you prove they are being fired for cause and not as a retaliation?

And if you require their complaint to be accurate then you open the door to retaliatory firings against well meaning employees who reported what they thought was misconduct but turned out not to be. A smart corrupt manager would then leave traps for honest employees where it appears there is something to report but the appearance is false and any employee reporting the issue is then fired with no whistleblower protections.

Tlaloc on February 16, 2016 at 2:28 PM

This is liberal Utopia. Bureaucrats getting to decide what is punishable and what is not.

antipc on February 16, 2016 at 2:47 PM

Just wanted to thank Jazz Shaw before it all goes tits up around here.

Thank you for being the only contributor at HotAir that learned not to denigrate and needle his readers.

You catch more flies with honey and all of that.

Best of luck to you going forward.

frost_ on February 16, 2016 at 2:53 PM

The primary objective of the bureaucracy is to maintain and expand the bureaucracy.

DFCtomm on February 16, 2016 at 3:33 PM

Tlaloc on February 16, 2016 at 2:28 PM

Look at that the littlest progressive realizes that human nature thwarts attempts to restrain it. It’s almost as if you realize that it’s impossible to legislate morality. If only we could get you to apply such critical thought to other political topics.

DFCtomm on February 16, 2016 at 3:35 PM

Look at that the littlest progressive realizes that human nature thwarts attempts to restrain it. It’s almost as if you realize that it’s impossible to legislate morality. If only we could get you to apply such critical thought to other political topics.

DFCtomm on February 16, 2016 at 3:35 PM

Your over generalization is noted. As is your complete lack of valuable input.

Want to try again?

Tlaloc on February 16, 2016 at 3:40 PM

Your over generalization is noted. As is your complete lack of valuable input.

Want to try again?

Tlaloc on February 16, 2016 at 3:40 PM

Come on now, you just pointed out to us how the system can be gamed. Can you apply that critical reasoning to any other government programs that you might favor, such as community outreach, entitlements, immigration, and affirmative action?

DFCtomm on February 16, 2016 at 4:01 PM

Surreal

Calls to suicide line went to v-mail

Schadenfreude on February 16, 2016 at 4:04 PM

Come on now, you just pointed out to us how the system can be gamed. Can you apply that critical reasoning to any other government programs that you might favor, such as community outreach, entitlements, immigration, and affirmative action?

DFCtomm on February 16, 2016 at 4:01 PM

I pointed out it is difficult to come up with a rigorous definition of whistleblower that isn’t subject to abuse. If you think that is somehow more generally applicable it’s on you to make the case.

Tlaloc on February 16, 2016 at 4:10 PM

I pointed out it is difficult to come up with a rigorous definition of whistleblower that isn’t subject to abuse. If you think that is somehow more generally applicable it’s on you to make the case.

Tlaloc on February 16, 2016 at 4:10 PM

Back to playing dumb.

DFCtomm on February 16, 2016 at 4:23 PM

Back to playing dumb.

DFCtomm on February 16, 2016 at 4:23 PM

You have a case to make, I can’t help but notice you aren’t even trying to make it though…

Tlaloc on February 16, 2016 at 4:24 PM

Back to playing dumb.

DFCtomm on February 16, 2016 at 4:23 PM

In the drama queen of denials universe, if he disagrees or it doesn’t match his ideology, it doesn’t exist.

antipc on February 16, 2016 at 4:37 PM