Summary: Today at his weekly press conference, Speaker Ryan discussed the two pieces of legislation the House is voting on today: the disaster relief supplemental and the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act. He also congratulated Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security nominee.
“First, I want to commend President Trump on his nomination of Kirstjen Nielsen to be the next Secretary of Homeland Security. As we deal with ongoing recovery efforts, she brings a proven track record in response and emergency management. She is also widely respected for her expertise in cybersecurity. I hope the Senate will take up her nomination without delay.
“Today the House is acting on two important pieces of legislation. The first is the disaster relief supplemental. People are really hurting in these disaster areas, whether it’s victims of the wildfires in California that we’re seeing on the news today, or people rebuilding from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. This legislation gives additional, needed resources to communities suffering from the natural disasters that we’ve experienced over the past couple of months.
“Tomorrow, I will be traveling to Puerto Rico with a bipartisan delegation to assess the damage and get a briefing from local and federal officials. We need to stand with the people of Puerto Rico as they work to rebuild their communities.
“Today the House is also acting on the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act. Where I come from, we know this story really well. This bill is named after a psychologist, Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick, who was a psychologist at the Tomah VA in Southwest Wisconsin. There, he raised concerns about the over-prescription of opioids.
“He was right about it. It was later found that, compared to the national average, Tomah patients were 2 ½ times more likely to get high doses of opiates. Instead of being commended, Dr. Kirkpatrick was reprimanded, and then he was fired. Soon after that, he took his own life.
“So Dr. Kirkpatrick was targeted because he had the courage to speak out. This is an outrage. And it’s an outrage because it’s not an isolated incident. Retaliation against whistleblowers is rampant at VA facilities.
“This has got to end. So this bipartisan legislation will protect these whistleblowers from retaliation. It requires the VA to come up with a plan to stop unauthorized access of medical records, it expedites cases in which a federal employee on probation is fired for whistleblowing, and it requires employees to undergo whistleblower protection training. This stuff at the VA’s got to end. This is bipartisan, and this legislation will help put an end to that and protect these whistleblowers.
“No one who stands up for our veterans should be marginalized, let alone targeted or fired. It’s time we protect whistleblowers and therefore the veterans that they serve.”