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Whistleblower Rights and 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. You can submit a report concerning wrongdoing by SSA employees or within SSA programs to SSA OIG.

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

It is unlawful for your employer to retaliate against you for making a “protected disclosure.” A disclosure is protected if: The disclosure is based on a reasonable belief that wrongdoing has occurred. Note that the definition of wrongdoing varies slightly depending on your place of employment.

Wrongdoing Defined for SSA Employees
  • Violation of any law, rule, or regulation;
  • Gross mismanagement;
  • Gross waste of funds;
  • Abuse of authority; and
  • Substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.

Wrongdoing defined for Contractors
  • Gross mismanagement of a federal contract or grant;
  • Gross waste of federal funds;
  • Abuse of authority relating to a federal contract or grant;
  • Substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or
  • Violation of a law, rule, or regulation related to a federal contract (including the competition for or negotiation of a contract) or grant. The disclosure is 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 SSA OIG or the Office of Special Counsel. However, the other authorized audiences are different, depending on your place of employment.

Authorized Audiences for SSA Employees

In general, employees may disclose information to anyone including non-governmental audiences, unless the information is classified or specifically prohibited by law from release.

However, if the information is classified or specifically prohibited by law from release, it may only be shared with the OIG, OSC, or a designated agency official.

Authorized Audiences for Contractors and Grantees

For all disclosures, classified or unclassified, an employee of a contractor or grantee is only protected if the disclosure is made to:

  • A Member of Congress or a representative of a committee of Congress.
  • An Inspector General.
  • The Government Accountability Office.
  • A federal employee responsible for contract or grant oversight or management at the relevant agency.
  • An authorized official of the Department of Justice or other law enforcement agency.
  • A court or grand jury.
  • A management official or other employee of the contractor, subcontractor, or grantee who has the responsibility to investigate, discover, or address misconduct.

Disclosures of waste, fraud, or abuse that include classified information are not protected disclosures unless they are made in accordance with the laws and rules that govern the proper handling and transmission of classified information. For example, you are not protected if you disclose 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 Office of the Inspector General’s Whistleblower Protection Coordinator.

No one should ever be subject to or threatened with reprisal for coming forward with a protected disclosure. It is unlawful for someone to take a personnel action against you because of your whistleblowing. If you believe someone has retaliated against you 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 to SSA OIG. You may also contact the Office of the Inspector General’s Whistleblower Protection Coordinator.

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 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 SSA OIG. 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 SSA OIG . The National Security Act of 1947 and psidential 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.

The Inspector General Act requires the SSA OIG to designate an 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, contact

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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