While many people are familiar with the Federal Whistleblower Protection Act, fewer are familiar with the Military Whistleblower Protection Act. Despite this, it is hugely important and influential in whistleblowing in the United States. Its protections have been vital to many cases of unethical and illegal conduct in the military. Without the Act, some of these cases undoubtedly would never have come before the courts.
The Military Whistleblower Protection Act is similar to the Federal Whistleblower Protection Act, but there are some key differences you should note if you are in the military and considering filing a case.
The Specifics of the Legislation
The Military Whistleblower Protection Act covers all members of the Armed Forces who make “protected communications” about the violation of a regulation or law. The superiors of the whistleblower can’t retaliate in any way, shape or form against the person who made the protected communication. Congress enacted the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, which was then officially implemented by the Department of Defense, in July 2007.
The law protects those who contact an Inspector General or Congressperson with a communication that they honestly believe “reasonably evidences” a breach of regulation or law. The particular sorts of violations mentioned in the Act include sexual harassment, illegal discrimination, severe mismanagement, serious waste of military funds, gross abuses of authority, and violations that lead to a substantial threat to public safety or health.
Note that whistleblowers seeking protection under the provisions of the Military Whistleblower Act must make communications to a member of Congress, a member of a Department of Defense inspection, audit, investigation or law enforcement section, or an Inspector General. Protection also applies to those designated by the military to receive these types of complaints, including members of the chain of command.
Getting the Military Whistleblower Protection Act Passed
Members of Congress faced an uphill battle in getting the Military Whistleblower Protection Act passed in the first place. Congresswoman Boxer introduced the Act in 1985. In 1986, the bill was part of the House Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 1987. It failed, however.
The next year, 1988, saw a high-profile campaign by military whistleblowers to get the bill passed. The Inspector Gen. of the US Department of Defense testified before Congress, as did Chief Petty Officer Michael Tufariello of the Navy Reserve and Major Peter Cole of the Army National Guard. Shortly after that, Congress passed the Military Whistleblower Protection Act.
Initially, the Act only covered communication between members of the military and Congresspeople or an Inspector General. It also required the Office of an Inspector General to investigate reprisals.
Many complained in 1988 that the Act was far too narrow. Specifically, many raised issues with the requirement that communication must be with Members of Congress or an Inspector General. In 1991, Congress broadened the Act to include communications between members of the United States Armed Forces and criminal investigators, auditors, inspectors, and all Department of Defense officers in active service.
Revisions Made to the Military Whistleblower Protection Act in 1998
The first widespread changes to the Act occurred in 1998. They concerned the process with which branches of the military and the Department of Defense handled allegations of reprisals against whistleblowers. The branches of the military and Department of Defense affected by the 1998 changes include the Military Department Inspectors General, the Office of the Inspector General, and several parts of the Department of Defense.
The Military Department Inspectors General now has the power to give protection to whistleblowers and investigate allegations of reprisals. This was a significant change, as the military whistleblowers previously had to submit their allegations of reprisals to the Department of Defense Inspector General.
Effects of the Military Whistleblower Act on the Uniform Code of Military Justice
A proven reprisal against a whistleblower may be punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the system of laws by which members of the military must abide. Specifically, Article 92 addresses reprisals. If a civilian employee is the source of a proven reprisal, Department of Defense regulations apply.
It is important to note that members of the military have protection from reprisal for whistleblowing actions, but they are not immune from civil or criminal prosecution for their actions. Nor are they immune from punishment by a member of the chain of command if they have legitimately violated a military regulation.
Contact the skilled Military Whistleblower Protection Act attorneys at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today. Our qualified legal team has years of experience working on such cases, so you can rest assured your case is in good hands.