The Military Whistleblower Protection Act, Title 10 U.S.C. § 1034, as amended, prohibits any person from taking, withholding, or threatening any personnel action against a member of the Armed Forces as reprisal for making or preparing any protected communications. A protected communication is any lawful communication to a Member of Congress or an Inspector General, as well as any communication made to a person or organization designated under competent regulations to receive such communications, which a member of the Armed Forces reasonably believes reports a violation of law or regulation (including sexual harassment, unlawful discrimination, gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial or specific danger to public health or safety).
The protections under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act afforded to members of the Armed Forces include uniformed members of the Coast Guard. Title 10 U.S.C. § 101(a)(4) defines “Armed Forces” to include “the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.”
The Coast Guard Whistleblower Protection Regulation, 33 C.F.R. Part 53, establishes policy and implements Title 10 U.S.C. § 1034 to provide protections against reprisal to members of the Coast Guard. Under 33 C.F.R. § 53.5, a member of the Coast Guard is defined as “any past or present Coast Guard uniformed personnel, officer or enlisted, regular or reserve,” and includes cadets of the Coast Guard Academy.
A reprisal occurs when a responsible management official takes or threatens to take an unfavorable personnel action, or withholds or threatens to withhold a favorable personnel action against a member of the Coast Guard because he or she made or was preparing to make a protected communication. A personnel action is any action taken against a member of the Coast Guard that affects or has the potential to affect that member’s current position or career. Examples would include: performance evaluations; transfer or reassignment; changes to duties or responsibilities; disciplinary or other corrective actions; denial of reenlistment or separation; decisions concerning awards, promotions or training; decisions concerning pay or benefits; referrals for mental health evaluations; access to classified material; and authorization to carry weapons.
HOW TO REPORT A VIOLATION OF THE MILITARY WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION ACT
Any member of the Coast Guard who reasonably believes a personnel action (including the withholding of an action) was taken or threatened in reprisal for making or preparing to make a protected communication (as defined above) has to file a complaint within one (1) year after the date in which the member becomes aware of the personnel action that is the subject of the allegation. Coast Guard members should report violations of the Military Whistleblower Protection Act to the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Hotline at 1-800-323-8603. Military Whistleblower reprisal allegations may also be filed: by letter to the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, Hotline, Washington, DC 20528; by faxing the complaint to 202-254-4292; or by emailing DHSOIGHOTLINE@dhs.gov.
Complaints should include the name, address, and telephone number of the complainant; the name and location of the activity where the alleged violation occurred; the personnel action taken, withheld, or threatened that is alleged to be motivated by reprisal; the name(s) of the individual(s) believed to responsible for the personnel action; the date when the alleged reprisal occurred; and any information that suggests or evidences a connection between the protected communication and reprisal. The complaint should also include a description of the protected communication, including a copy of any written communication (including email) and a brief summary of an oral communication showing the date of communication, the subject matter, and the name of the person or official to whom the communication was made.
HOW TO MAKE A PROTECTED COMMUNICATION
Coast Guard members may make protected communications (as defined above) to the following organizations or persons:
1. A Member of Congress;
2. An Inspector General;
3. A member of the Department of Defense or Department of Homeland Security audit, inspection, investigation, or law enforcement organization, including the Coast Guard Investigative Service;
4. Any person or organization in the chain of command; and
5. Any person or organization designated pursuant to regulations or other established administrative procedures for such communications.
BOARD FOR CORRECTION OF MILITARY RECORDS
A member of the Coast Guard who alleges reprisal for making or preparing to make a protected communication may also submit an application for the correction of military records to the Department of Homeland Security Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR) in accordance with 33 C.F.R. Part 52. Additional information concerning BCMR procedures is available online at www.uscg.mil/legal/BCMR.asp.