State News

Trump signs whistleblower protection bill named after Wisconsin doctor

Ron Johnson-led bill protects rights of whistleblowers.  

Image By: Drew Gilmore

President Donald Trump signed a bill into law on Thursday, authored by Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, intended to protect whistleblowers reporting on illicit activities within government agencies.

The bill, created by Johnson with support from U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, aims to protect future whistleblowers from suffering retribution for speaking out against wrongdoings.

The act increases penalties against agencies who retaliate against whistleblowers. The bill attracted support from members of both parties, including U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis.

According to a statement from Kind, a vocal supporter of the bill, the act will provide “new protections for whistleblowers and will help ensure that supervisors found guilty of retaliation are held responsible for their actions.”

The bill is named the Chris Kilpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act, after an employee of the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center who reported that patients there were over-prescribed opioids. After Kirkpatrick’s reports surfaced, he was fired from his position, like many other whistleblowers at that facility and at major VA locations across the country. Kirkpatrick committed suicide shortly after his release from the Tomah VA.

Johnson praised Kirkpatrick’s bravery in reporting the abuse of medical prescriptions.

“Chris Kirkpatrick did the right and honorable thing when he raised concerns about the overprescription of opioids to veterans," Johnson said in a joint statement with Ernst. "Today, we are sending a strong message that federal whistleblowers like Chris deserve protection, and attempts to intimidate or silence whistleblowers are unlawful."

As chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Johnson led an investigation into Kirkpatrick’s firing from Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The examination of the Tomah facility found an over-prescription of opioids left one patient dead and resulted in the dismissal of several leaders from their roles. 


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