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Whistleblower Protection

Whistleblowers perform an important service for the public and the Social Security Administration (SSA) when they report suspected wrongdoing. All SSA employees, contractors, subcontractors, grantees, subgrantees, and personal services contractors are protected from retaliation for making a protected disclosure. Reports concerning wrongdoing by SSA employees or within SSA programs can always be submitted directly to the OIG Hotline.

If you have any questions about any of the information on this web page, or are concerned that you have experienced retaliation for blowing the whistle, you may contact the OIG’s Whistleblower Protection Coordinator for additional information. You may also consult the web site of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), or review this OSC pamphlet, “Know Your Rights When Reporting Wrongs.”

VIDEO: WHISTLEBLOWER RIGHTS AND PROTECTIONS

Generally, reports concerning wrongdoing by SSA employees or within programs should be submitted directly to the OIG Hotline.

For more information about how to make a protected disclosure, how to file a retaliation complaint, and what to expect if you have filed a retaliation complaint, watch the DOJ OIG’s 3-part video series “Whistleblower Rights and Protections.”  The transcripts of the video may be accessed here.

Video 1: Reporting Wrongdoing Video 2: What Happens When You Decide to Come Forward Video 3: After a Whistleblower Makes a Report

HOW TO MAKE A PROTECTED DISCLOSURE

It is unlawful for your employer to retaliate against you for making a “protected disclosure.” A disclosure is protected if it meets two criteria:

  1. The disclosure must be based on a reasonable belief that wrongdoing has occurred. As explained in the chart below, the definition of wrongdoing varies slightly depending on your place of employment.
  2. The disclosure must also be made to a person or entity that is authorized to receive it. Employees who reasonably believe they have evidence of wrongdoing are always protected for submitting that information to the OIG Hotline. However, as explained in the chart below, the other authorized audiences are different, depending on your place of employment.

(Click the image for larger view.)

Disclosing Classified Information

A disclosure of waste, fraud, or abuse that includes classified information is not a protected disclosure under the whistleblower laws unless the disclosure is made in accordance with the laws and rules that govern the proper handling and transmission of classified information. For example, you are not protected for disclosing classified information to an unauthorized recipient, even if you reasonably believe the information is evidence of waste, fraud, or abuse. For more information on how to properly provide classified information to the OIG, please contact the OIG’s Hotline or the OIG Whistleblower Protection Coordinator.

HOW TO REPORT RETALIATION OR REPRISAL FOR BLOWING THE WHISTLE

No one should ever be subject to or threatened with reprisal for coming forward with a protected disclosure. It is unlawful for any personnel action to be taken against you because of your whistleblowing. If you believe you have been retaliated against for making a protected disclosure, you may file a retaliation complaint, under the guidelines below.

Information for SSA Employees

If you are a SSA employee, you may submit a retaliation complaint to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) or through the OIG Hotline. OSC has primary jurisdiction over retaliation complaints for most federal employees, including all SSA employees. OSC has unique authorities, including the ability to seek a temporary stay of a pending personnel action, and can seek to correct a retaliatory personnel action on your behalf.

Allegations of reprisal regarding Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) matters generally should be addressed through the EEO process.

Information for Employees of SSA Contractors, Subcontractors, Grantees, or Subgrantees or Personal Services Contractors

If you are an employee of a SSA contractor, subcontractor, grantee, subgrantee, or a SSA personal services contractor, you may submit a retaliation complaint to the OIG Hotline. Under 41 U.S.C. § 4712, it is illegal for an employee of a federal contractor, subcontractor, grantee, or subgrantee or personal services contractor to be discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against for making a protected disclosure.

Information for Reporting Retaliatory Security Clearance Action

If you are a SSA employee,  SSA contractor employee or grantee, and believe an action affecting your security clearance was retaliatory, you may submit a reprisal complaint to the OIG Hotline. The National Security Act of 1947 and Presidential Policy Directive 19 (PPD-19) make it unlawful for an agency to take any action affecting an employee’s eligibility for access to classified information in reprisal for making a protected disclosure.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Whistleblower Protection Coordinator

The Inspector General Act requires the SSA OIG to designate an individual to serve as the OIG’s Whistleblower Protection Coordinator. The OIG’s Whistleblower Protection Coordinator carries out a number of key functions, including:

  • Educating SSA employees and managers about prohibitions on retaliation for protected disclosures;
  • Educating employees who have made or are contemplating making a protected disclosure about the rights and remedies available to them;
  • Ensuring that the OIG is promptly and thoroughly reviewing complaints that it receives, and that it is communicating effectively with whistleblowers throughout the process; and
  • Coordinating with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, other agencies, and non-governmental organizations on relevant matters.

The OIG Whistleblower Protection Coordinator cannot act as a legal representative, agent, or advocate for any individual whistleblower.

For more information, you may contact the OIG Whistleblower Coordinator Program at whistleblower.coordinator@ssa.gov.

Nondisclosure Agreements

Pursuant to the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, the following statement applies to non-disclosure policies, forms, or agreements of the federal government with current or former employees, including those in effect before the Act’s effective date of December 27, 2012:

“These provisions are consistent with and do not supersede, conflict with, or otherwise alter the employee obligations, rights, or liabilities created by existing statute or Executive Order relating to (1) classified information, (2) communications to Congress, (3) the reporting to an Inspector General of a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, or (4) any other whistleblower protection. The definitions, requirements, obligations, rights, sanctions, and liabilities created by controlling Executive Orders and statutory provisions are incorporated into this agreement and are controlling.”

The controlling Executive Orders and statutory provisions in the event of any conflict with a non-disclosure policy, form, or agreement include, as of March 14, 2013:

  • Executive Order No. 13526 (governing classified national security information);
  • Section 7211 of Title 5, United States Code (governing disclosures to Congress);
  • Section 1034 of Title 10, United States Code as amended by the Military Whistleblower Protection Act (governing disclosure to Congress by members of the military);
  • Section 2302(b)(8) of Title 5, United States Code, as amended by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (governing disclosures of illegality, waste, fraud, abuse or public health or safety threats);
  • Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 (50 U.S.C. 421 et seq.) (governing disclosures that could expose confidential Government agents);
  • The statutes which protect against disclosure that may compromise the national security, including Sections 641, 793, 794, 798, and 952 of Title 18, United States Code; and
  • Section 4(b) of the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950 (50 U.S.C. 783(b)).
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