A whistleblower who once led the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Suicide Prevention Office for veterans has won her retaliation case years after filing a complaint alleging she was terminated for calling out fraud, waste and abuse within the program.
Jackie Garrick, a professional social worker, former Army officer, and civil servant, had the retirement benefits she lost upon her termination restored by an administrative judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).
“You can win”
“This may be one small victory in a universe filled with pandemics, racism, and economic spiraling, but I hope it assures others that if you speak out, stick with it, you can win,” Garrick said after her May 2020 court victory, according to the Army Times.
Ms. Garrick served as director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO) from 2011 to 2015. Her duties included identifying redundancies and shortfalls in the agency’s efforts to bring down the rising suicide rate among military veterans. Eliminating ineffective and duplicative efforts resulted in cost savings that could be used to close gaps in the programs and fund evidence-based initiatives, she said in testimony before Congress in 2013.
She was subjected to a hostile work environment, however, when she witnessed wrongdoing within the department, such as funds being misspent and other fraud. She called out the misconduct by raising concerns within the department. She then went public with the allegations.
In one instance, Ms. Garrick called out a Defense Department official who funneled a government contract to her former employer, a strategic communications firm. Ms. Garrick was then replaced by the official’s subordinate, after which several DSPO contracts went unfulfilled or were canceled altogether.
Government corruption continues
The Army Times notes that a Government Accountability Office report last year found that the DOD’s Inspector General “was slow to process complaints” if it investigated them at all.
Ms. Garrick’s case demonstrates how the Defense Department, like many government agencies, continues to operate with a lack of transparency when it comes to how taxpayer money is handled and spent. The case also underscores how the government holds itself to a lower standard when it comes to wrongdoing within its ranks.
Ms. Garrick thanked the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and others for standing behind her in her long and hard-fought battle when the DOD Inspector General, the FBI, and others failed to act on her concerns.
She also acknowledged that even though she was victorious, the fraud, waste, abuse, and corruption continue to infect federal agencies and programs.
“My regret remains that DSPO activities that showed promise in saving lives were canceled. Suicides were not prevented. Grift was not stopped,” Ms. Garrick said. “Officials I reported moved to other agencies and continued their wrongdoing and repeated retaliation. They will be applauded as leaders, since transparency and accountability are lacking — but in reality, as validated by the MSPB, they were complicit.”
Whistleblower retaliation lawyers
Lawyers in our Fraud section handle similar complaints involving employment law, including whistleblower retaliation. Retaliation may occur in the workplace when an employer punishes an employee for an action that is permitted by law, but which the employer wants to discourage. For example, an employer may retaliate against an employee who makes harassment or discrimination complaints, who reports fraud or other wrongdoing in the workplace, or who participates in an investigation within the workplace. Some employers also retaliate against employees who report workplace injuries to state or federal authorities. For more information or to discuss a possible claim, contact Larry Golston, Leon Hampton or Lauren Miles in this section.
Fraud against the federal government has been and continues to be a huge problem, involving many industries in this country. Before you report suspected fraud or other wrongdoing – before you “blow the whistle” – it is important to make sure you have a valid claim and that you are prepared for what lies ahead. Lawyers dedicated to handling whistleblower cases can help you navigate the oftentimes risky and complex litigation. Additional whistleblower lawyers on our team are Lance Gould, Leslie Pescia, Paul Evans and Tyner Helms. If you are aware of fraud being committed against the federal or state governments, you could be rewarded for reporting the fraud. If you have any questions about whether you qualify as a whistleblower, you can contact a lawyer at Beasley Allen for a free and confidential evaluation of your claim.