38 U.S. Code § 323 - Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection

prev | next
(a)Establishment.—
There is established in the Department an office to be known as the “Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection” (in this section referred to as the “Office”).
(b)Head of Office.—
(1)
The head of the Office shall be responsible for the functions of the Office and shall be appointed by the President pursuant to section 308(a) of this title.
(2)
The head of the Office shall be known as the “Assistant Secretary for Accountability and Whistleblower Protection”.
(3)
The Assistant Secretary shall report directly to the Secretary on all matters relating to the Office.
(4)
Notwithstanding section 308(b) of this title, the Secretary may only assign to the Assistant Secretary responsibilities relating to the functions of the Office set forth in subsection (c).
(c)Functions.—
(1) The functions of the Office are as follows:
(A)
Advising the Secretary on all matters of the Department relating to accountability, including accountability of employees of the Department, retaliation against whistleblowers, and such matters as the Secretary considers similar and affect public trust in the Department.
(B)
Issuing reports and providing recommendations related to the duties described in subparagraph (A).
(D)
Referring whistleblower disclosures received under subparagraph (C) for investigation to the Office of the Medical Inspector, the Office of Inspector General, or other investigative entity, as appropriate, if the Assistant Secretary has reason to believe the whistleblower disclosure is evidence of a violation of a provision of law, mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
(E)
Receiving and referring disclosures from the Special Counsel for investigation to the Medical Inspector of the Department, the Inspector General of the Department, or such other person with investigatory authority, as the Assistant Secretary considers appropriate.
(F)
Recording, tracking, reviewing, and confirming implementation of recommendations from audits and investigations carried out by the Inspector General of the Department, the Medical Inspector of the Department, the Special Counsel, and the Comptroller General of the United States, including the imposition of disciplinary actions and other corrective actions contained in such recommendations.
(G)
Analyzing data from the Office and the Office of Inspector General telephone hotlines, other whistleblower disclosures, disaggregated by facility and area of health care if appropriate, and relevant audits and investigations to identify trends and issue reports to the Secretary based on analysis conducted under this subparagraph.
(H) Receiving, reviewing, and investigating allegations of misconduct, retaliation, or poor performance involving—
(i)
an individual in a senior executive position (as defined in section 713(d) of this title) in the Department;
(ii)
an individual employed in a confidential, policy-making, policy-determining, or policy-advocating position in the Department; or
(iii)
a supervisory employee, if the allegation involves retaliation against an employee for making a whistleblower disclosure.
(I)
Making such recommendations to the Secretary for disciplinary action as the Assistant Secretary considers appropriate after substantiating any allegation of misconduct or poor performance pursuant to an investigation carried out as described in subparagraph (F) or (H).
(2)
In carrying out the functions of the Office, the Assistant Secretary shall ensure that the Office maintains a toll-free telephone number and Internet website to receive anonymous whistleblower disclosures.
(3)
In any case in which the Assistant Secretary receives a whistleblower disclosure from an employee of the Department under paragraph (1)(C), the Assistant Secretary may not disclose the identity of the employee without the consent of the employee, except in accordance with the provisions of section 552a of title 5, or as required by any other applicable provision of Federal law.
(d)Staff and Resources.—
The Secretary shall ensure that the Assistant Secretary has such staff, resources, and access to information as may be necessary to carry out the functions of the Office.
(e)Relation to Office of General Counsel.—
The Office shall not be established as an element of the Office of the General Counsel and the Assistant Secretary may not report to the General Counsel.
(f)Reports.—
(1)
(A)
Not later than June 30 of each calendar year, beginning with June 30, 2017, the Assistant Secretary shall submit to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the House of Representatives a report on the activities of the Office during the calendar year in which the report is submitted.
(B) Each report submitted under subparagraph (A) shall include, for the period covered by the report, the following:
(i)
A full and substantive analysis of the activities of the Office, including such statistical information as the Assistant Secretary considers appropriate.
(ii)
Identification of any issues reported to the Secretary under subsection (c)(1)(G), including such data as the Assistant Secretary considers relevant to such issues and any trends the Assistant Secretary may have identified with respect to such issues.
(iii)
Identification of such concerns as the Assistant Secretary may have regarding the size, staffing, and resources of the Office and such recommendations as the Assistant Secretary may have for legislative or administrative action to address such concerns.
(iv) Such recommendations as the Assistant Secretary may have for legislative or administrative action to improve—
(I)
the process by which concerns are reported to the Office; and
(II)
the protection of whistleblowers within the Department.
(v)
Such other matters as the Assistant Secretary considers appropriate regarding the functions of the Office or other matters relating to the Office.
(2)
If the Secretary receives a recommendation for disciplinary action under subsection (c)(1)(I) and does not take or initiate the recommended disciplinary action before the date that is 60 days after the date on which the Secretary received the recommendation, the Secretary shall submit to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the House of Representatives a detailed justification for not taking or initiating such disciplinary action.
(g)Definitions.—In this section:
(1)
The term “supervisory employee” means an employee of the Department who is a supervisor as defined in section 7103(a) of title 5.
(2)
The term “whistleblower” means one who makes a whistleblower disclosure.
(3) The term “whistleblower disclosure” means any disclosure of information by an employee of the Department or individual applying to become an employee of the Department which the employee or individual reasonably believes evidences—
(A)
a violation of a law, rule, or regulation; or
(B)
gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
(Added Pub. L. 115–41, title I, § 101(a), June 23, 2017, 131 Stat. 863.)