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The Law Office of Richard Vaznaugh
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Military Whistleblowers–Military Whistleblower Protection Act

 

The Military Whistleblower Protection Act, passed in 1988, protects military personnel who report wrongdoing from retaliation. All military members have the right to report the illegal conduct to authorized authorities. If you are a member of the Armed Forces who is aware of violations that should be reported, click on the questions below for more information about what you are protected from and how to report violations.

1. I know another member of the Armed Forces is making violations. Can I be retaliated against for reporting the violations I know of?
No. The Military Whistleblower Protection Act prohibits retaliation against whistleblowers. If you know that other military members are breaking the law or putting others in danger, you have the right to report it without fear of retaliation. Specifically, no one can take or threaten to take adverse personnel action against you, which the military calls reprisal. It is also illegal to prevent others from whistleblowing, which is called restriction. However, whistleblowers are only protected if they report the misconduct through protected communication. Additionally, whistleblowers may only report certain types of wrongdoing to be protected by the Military Whistleblower Protection Act.

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2. What is adverse personnel action?

Adverse personnel action is any action taken against a member of the military that negatively affects, or may negatively affect, that member’s current position or career. In the military, these actions are called reprisal. Examples of adverse personnel actions include disciplinary/corrective action, transfer/reassignment, and reducing pay or benefits.

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3. What us reprisal?

Reprisal is an illegal punishment for making, preparing, or being perceived as whistleblowing in the military. Reprisal includes taking or threatening to take adverse personnel action against another for whistleblowing. It also includes withholding or threatening to withhold favorable personnel action.

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4. What is restriction?

Restriction is when someone restricts a member of the military from whistleblowing. Restriction is distinct from reprisal because restriction prohibits members from whistleblowing while reprisal punishes members for whistleblowing.

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5. What types of violations can you report and be protected by the Military Whistleblower Protection Act?
You can report the following violations and be protected by the Military Whistleblower Protection Act:

  • a violation of law or regulation
  • gross mismanagement
  • gross wastfe of funds
  • abuse of authority
  • substantial and specific danger to public health and safety
  • any threat by another member of the Armed Forces or federal employee that indicates an intent to kill or cause serious bodily harm to others
  • any threat by another member of the Armed Forces or Federal employee that indicates an intent to damage military, federal, or civilian property

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6. What is protected communications?
To be protected from illegal retaliation, whistleblowers must report others’ wrongdoings through protected communication. To be considered protected communication, the whistleblower must have a reasonable belief that a member of the military committed these types of violations:

  • a violation of law or regulation
  • gross mismanagement
  • gross wastfe of funds
  • abuse of authority
  • substantial and specific danger to public health and safety
  • any threat by another member of the Armed Forces or federal employee that indicates an intent to kill or cause serious bodily harm to others
  • any threat by another member of the Armed Forces or Federal employee that indicates an intent to damage military, federal, or civilian property

The whistleblower must make his/her report to these specific authorized entities:

  • a member of Congress
  • an Inspector General
  • a member of the U.S. Department of Defense audit, inspection, or law enforcement/organization
  • any other person designated pursuant to regulations or other established administrative procedures to receive such communications

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7. I was prevented from/punished for whistleblowing. How do I submit a reprisal/restriction complaint?

The most efficient way to report reprisal and restriction complaints is by directly reporting to your local or command Inspector General (IG) office. You can also submit your complaint by filling out one of these online forms:

Before filling out a form to SIPRNet or JWICS, or just to ask a question about filing a complaint, be sure to call the U.S. Department of Defense hotline at 1-800-424-9098.

You also might want to consider having your complaint reviewed by submitting a copy to the appropriate Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR).

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