Whistleblowers find friends in high places

Good news for those who report wrong-doing by government contractors: Congress will draft legislation to shore up whistleblower protections, and an appeals court ruled that whistleblowers aren't necessarily required to cite specific examples of fraud.

At a recent hearing, Republicans and Democrats on the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee "seemed pretty disgusted with the way Uncle Sam can treat federal employees who report waste, fraud and abuse," the Washington Post reported. Lawmakers heard whistleblowers describe post-reporting life upheavals and called these "a disgrace."

Some false claims relators collect jaw-dropping awards, such as "serial whistleblower" William LaCorte, who raked in $38 million through 12 lawsuits. But other whistleblowers don't fare as well. Paula Pedene, for example, former chief spokeswoman for the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Hospital, was stripped of her title, moved to a basement office and denied basic business perks after exposing facility mismanagement, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Cases like Pedene's suggest shortfalls in the Whistleblower Protection Act of 2012. To remedy these, lawmakers plan to draft legislation after the November elections. One loophole in the law, for instance, lets the government label many positions as "sensitive." This prevents employees in these roles from appealing unfavorable, post-complaint personnel decisions through the Merit Systems Protection Board, The Post noted. A federal appeals court ruling--which the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review--gave the government broad discretionary authority to classify positions as sensitive; but a bipartisan bill in Congress would reverse that decision.

A recent court ruling may also help the cause of false claims whistleblowers. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that relators with knowledge of employer billing practices aren't necessarily required to identify specific examples of fraud to survive a motion to dismiss the case, according to JD Supra Business Advisor.

The court ruled that a relator who provides "sufficient indicia of reliability" to support allegations that false claims were filed--such as details about billing practices and personal knowledge of false filings--meets the legal objective of shielding the defendant from unfounded claims, JD Supra reported.      

For more:
- here's The Washington Post article
- read the JD Supra Business Advisor article

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