Skip to main content

tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  June 12, 2015 3:00am-5:01am EDT

3:00 am
i was cleared from the hostile work environment allegations, i was removed from my position and left to lang wish in an empty office. -- to languish in an empty office. to this day after 22,000 pages have been turned over by ssa and discovery and ten depositions by my attorneys, nothing has been shown by as as a that i deserve the retaliation. in after blowing the whistle july 2014, again on ms.: for misrepresenting to congress, i finally made the difficult decision to retire from government service five years earlier than planned which caused significant hardship. i would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have for me. thank you. >> thank you, mr. keegan.
3:01 am
our next witness is mr. jose belo. he has raised concerns about overtime abuse to the office of special counsel. >> good morning to all. chairman johnson, and ranking member carper, and members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to appear before you today to help you blow the whistle on retaliation. i am a former member of the united states army aviation, and i serve with dignity and honor for over six years until honorable discharge because during an operation in 1993 i suffer a injury which incapacitated me from doing my
3:02 am
duties for 60% of my physical ability to continue flying. of my duties, after my recuperation i decided that i would like to continue serving the government, as i dream when i was a child raising up next to the air force base where i enjoyed watching all the b52s, and i said one day i am going to be up there, and god gave me that opportunity. moreover, i spent a year in a body cast recuperating from my injuries and with the help of my wife and the physical therapists i started walking again.
3:03 am
i am proven testimony that to this day i can do law enforcement work with all my pains and aches. when i was early discharged in 1995, i immediately took a position as a u.s. custom inspector in san juan, puerto rico, where i made a lot of good things for this nation and i continue serving with pride, honor and dignity to this day. when i joined in 1995, i completed to this day 20 years of active service with the service that is now the department of homeland security. sadly, because i did the right thing i suffered retaliation , from people i would have
3:04 am
expected to receive support and complete admiration for doing the honorable thing, because i remember in 1986, as i did just now when i raised my hand and swear to tell the truth, i also swore to protect the constitution of the united states against all foreign and domestic enemies. well, members of the committee we are dealing right now with domestic enemies, enemies that have no intention of respecting the whistleblower act and protect the people that do the right thing by reporting wrong doing in the government. i reported the fraud, waste, abuse, and abuse of authority of more than $1.5 billion of
3:05 am
taxpayers' money, and all of us in here are taxpayers, and i am an american citizen and i am proud to be that and i am proud of serving this nation as a public servant. all of us are public servants. we are not entitled to anything but to do our job for future , generations so that this nation prosper and continue for many years to come. we don't want to see the united states end, burned up like rome did hundreds of years ago. i don't want to say that i am swinging for republicans or for democrats, that's not the issue at stake over here. this is bipartisan. and my duty from the moment i
3:06 am
got this badge and a weapon to fight for america in a war in -- and two conflicts is to defend the constitution of the united states and to kiss old glory every time i can, because that's my pride and that's my legacy to my children. if i am here, it's for a reason to leave a legacy to my children. as senator carper was saying earlier, we have to protect the way that we spend federal funding. nobody is entitled to say, well, forget about it, it's the government money. no, it's my money. it's your money. every time you file your taxes every year, it's your money.
3:07 am
i have to say that cbp should avoid wars that they cannot win and never raise your flag for an asinine cause like fraud and corruption. i have been made the villain the black sheep, and that has to stop. i know we have many provisions in our system to protect whistle blowers, but the agencies, they don't care and they try to cover it up as much as i can. my situation is well known. i have been suffering. i love my job, but i cannot go back. and gladly with the help of the senate and the office of the
3:08 am
special council, i am getting there. i am going to get my job if it's the last thing i do. i worked there 11 years and never did anything wrong to deserve what is coming to me. i also, with the help of this committee and the help of the osc, i'm trying very hard, very hard to have the osc gain more power over their investigation because the agencies do not , respect the way they handled their investigation. i want to end with a quote that president obama, our leader in charge of this great nation, when he said, democracy must be
3:09 am
built throughout open societies that share information. when there is information, there is enlightenment and when there is a debate, there is solutions. when there is no sharing of power, no rule of law, no accountability, there is abuse corruption subjugation, and indignity. i have been called many things and people laugh about my spanish and people may say i am a colorful character, and people may think i am just a second-class citizen, and i remember senator john mccain telling me, if you are, mr. ducos, a second class citizen because you were born in puerto
3:10 am
rico, then i am right on the bus with you because i was born in panama. there is no place in our government and society to reprise, to discriminate against people that do the right thing. i am one against many, and look what i did. i am still standing. i am still here. i have a job. and i want to do my job with your help. also, i would like to cite something that helps me go by every day. honor is simply the morality of superior men. believe that you can do something and you are halfway there. like theodore roosevelt said speak softly and carry a big
3:11 am
stick. so in conclusion, let me find my paper -- i have everything in order here. my professional reputation has been tarnished in public and social media, and my family has suffered the ill affects to my well-being. these are the facts and the evidence that i have provided to the staff of the committee. it will be much, much, much more, and i will never do my six minutes if i tell you all the retaliation things that my agency have done to me.
3:12 am
it's in writing, and it's accessible to you as evidence. but more now than ever, i will insure that all federal employees feel secure to report acts of corruption, waste, or security concerns that can bring grave danger to our national security. when it comes to federal agencies committing acts of wrong doing, we are the undercover cops on the lookout to prevent uncle sam from being pickpocket. thank you very much. i am looking forward to answer any questions that you may have for me.
3:13 am
>> thank you, mr. ducos-bello. thank you for your service to this nation and patriotism. i don't think there is anybody in his room who does not think you are but a first-class citizen. our next witness, mr. tom divine. he is a legal director of the government accountability project a nonprofit to assist whistle blowers. mr. divine. >> thank you. the testimony from the last four witnesses personifies why i spent the last 35 years working at gap instead of getting a real job. today's hearing is welcome much needed oversight for the marathon struggle to turn paper writes into reality. working with over 6,000 whistle blowers since 1979, one of the primary lessons i've learned is passing these laws is one step in a very long journey. today's witnesses that just a
3:14 am
great job of sharing lessons learned based on their personal experiences. i would like to extend that to the bigger picture. the first lesson to be shared is one that i think is pretty obvious. whistle blowing through congress can have the greatest impact making the difference against abuses of power that betray the public trust. no other audience comes close. the second lesson is that this next congress, -- that this congress is the highest risk audience for whistle blowers and that's because there's a direct relationship between the severity of the threat posed by a disclosure and the viciousness of retaliation. the third lesson is that retaliation doesn't end, and after blowing the whistle employees face-off often a lifelong struggle for professional survival.
3:15 am
this is a life's crossroads decision. the fourth lesson that i think is were sharing is that since the wpea was passed, a creative harassment tactics are circumventing its mandate. the most and conferencing is the sensitive jobs loophole. this is a national security loophole that would assume the entire civil service rule of law that kept the labor force nonpartisan and professional since 1883. there has been no empirical studies or basis for scrapping the civil service system and no structure in place for government alternative to it but the federal circuit court of appeals, the same court that had the passage of the wpea approved it, and there was final last regulations, and it's full steam ahead. the government has uncontrolled power to designate almost any position as national security sensitive.
3:16 am
once that happens, sensitive employees no longer have the right to defend themselves in a hearing and don't have a right to know what they were charged with of doing wrong to lose their designation to work for the federal government. that's very disingenuous. the agencies still have the authority to present unreviewable independent justification for their actions. even if her television is proven -- even if retaliation is proven. that means by definition every whistle-blower will lose a case who has a sensitive job. we can still have the whistle blower projection act to turn the wpea into a bad joke, unless congress acts. we are on the verge of replacing the rule of law with a national security spoil system and taxpayers will be the big losers.
3:17 am
the second creative tactic i would like to highlight is criminalizing whistle blowers. as we have seen from this morning's testimony, a new tactic, instead of just trying to fire somebody, put them under criminal investigation and give them the choice of resigning or facing a prosecutive referral. it's much easier, much less muss and fuss than litigation. you don't have to prepare all kinds of things, and all you need is one good investigative bully. second, you can't lose. the worst that will happen is the agency will have to close the case and then next month they can open up a new case under a new pretext. i have one whistle-blower facing 30 years of criminal investigations and fighting bribery in the chicago meat yards. the third factor is the the chilling affect of facing jail time is much more severe than the chilling affect of possible loss of your job. the fifth lesson learned is the
3:18 am
whistle-blower protection act is a work in progress. the two most significant structural reforms have not been finalized. gao must recommend whether every other group of employees in the u.s. labor force, federal government whistle blowers can enforce their rights through district court jury trials if they don't get a timely ruling and access to the appeals court, the circuits review the prevision is just an experiment. senators, these are the structural cornerstones for the wpea to work. the report is due in a year and a half and it's time to get started on that. the sixth lesson learned, we are overdue reauthorizing of the merit system agencies, the office of special council and the mspb, and the good news is
3:19 am
the leaders of these two agencies have really an unquestionable commitment to the merit system in their agency missions. it would be silly to challenge their good faith. in both agencies, their performance is probably the highest in the history since they have been created in 1978. the bad news is that this is a very low bar. at the mspb, the board has been very evenhanded and the administrative judges are extremely hostile to the whistleblower protection act and i can't honestly tell employees they have a fair chance of justice in an ms pb hearing. it means that although they are doing a lot better, whistle blowers still don't have a fighting chance at justice when
3:20 am
they try to act on the rights under this law. the bottom line, the wpea was a great first step. the commitment of the agency leaders charged with enforcing it is an outstanding second step, but we have got along way to go before we achieve the act's purposes, and there is a lot of work and thank you for holding this hearing to get started. >> thank you for your testimony. let me start by saying, as i was reading the testimony, as i am listening to it, coming from the private sector, when you are at the top of a company it's hard to get, you know, the information not filtered so you really get the truth. as i am hearing what was brought to the attention of the superiors, i am thinking you ought to be having medals pinned to your chest and not have retaliation inflicted upon you.
3:21 am
so what i would like to ask the whistleblower's here, i want you to as easy as possible describe to me why, why were you retaliated against. i would like to start with lieutenant colonel -- i appreciate you meeting with me in my office yesterday. you told me an awful lot yesterday, which i appreciate. i think i have your why, i think. i want you to confirm this. you told me in the course of your attempts to gain the freedom of these hostages in afghanistan and pakistan, you were made aware to your belief that the government did pay a ransom and the ransom money was stolen. secondly that you believed you , were pretty close to potentially having a deal where we would get seven hostages in exchange for one taliban leader, and instead we got one hostage in exchange for five taliban leaders. is that information, is that why
3:22 am
you have been retaliated against or what is the reason? >> yes, sir. i think there are layers of this, as i said, in terms of layers of the bureaucracy. on december 1, 2014, representative hunter submitted a complaint to the ig alleging an illegal or questionable ransom possibly being paid for sergeant bergdahl. there was a good deal of evidence that it occurred and a lot of questions as to how it occurred. that complaint implicated both the dod organization and the fbi. so part of what lit the fuse was the same folks in the fbi that were basically implicated and
3:23 am
the dodig complaint of one december were the ones that later complained to the army i was sharing sensitive information with representative hunter. another aspect of it on the fbi's side was the general frustration with representative hunter pushing them hard on civilian hostages and their awareness that i was speaking to representative hunter about all of this. he even set up a meeting between my office and the fbi to help them out with some of this, and after the meeting they responded by contacting caitlin coleman's father and threatening not to talk to representative hunter again or he would stop being supported by the fbi. i mean just atrocious treatment of family. so the fbi complaint to the army and for reasons to be seen, there is a bit of a debate within the army whether i actually did anything wrong, and my understanding is one party, who i just don't want to be
3:24 am
speculative, but there was a big debate within the army over whether i did anything wrong and that led to the investigation. >> can you tell me a little bit about what deal you thought you had for the release of the hostages? >> so, my office worked options. we looked at a whole variety of options. one of the options that we developed was a, you know, i mean, we called it, you know the one for seven option. it entailed six hostages and a seventh i would rather not discuss today. so the six hostages, and it was five hostages and a prisoner of war, so when we saw that nobody else was trying to get them home, we, you know, we were working every initiative possible. one was the one for seven and in
3:25 am
that we were looking at norzi, and he was described as the pablo escobar of afghanistan and we realized he was just another war lord who was an ally of the karzai regime, and we lured him to the u.s. under the false promise of safe passage and then put him in jail for life. some thought he was a wretched human being, and others thought he was wronged. for us it was we are not getting bergdahl, let alone the other hostages back for free, and every option was going to be painful, so the norzi option was one that was at least less painful. we were able to reach out to the tribe itself that we believe could free the hostages, and we
3:26 am
made a lot of progress on it. i briefed it widely, but in the end when the taliban came to the table, the state department basically said it must be the five for one, and that's the only viable option we have and that's what we went with. >> i can see how members of the government, if there was an option for seven -- six americans for one taliban and the deal ended up being five taliban for one american, they probably would not want that too highly publicized. mbarka: that makes sense to me. mrs. taylor, can you say why? what was threatened? who was threatened? >> sorry, guys. i think that because of the people that were involved with the investigation, it may was -- maybe put a different light and there was extra outside influences and back and forth with the different members and
3:27 am
different agencies, so we are all kind of -- as police officers the last thing you want to be is listed as a whistle blower and you usually ride the wave and keep your head down and mouth shut. i did that in this case until i was contacted by the instructor general's office. we are required to cooperate with them and i think breaking that silence, i add everything -- i had everything in my 12-year career thrown at me and it was stuff that was not factual. i think there was a lot of issues surrounding that. >> you said as an investigator the last thing you want to be known as is a whistle blower and is that because of the retaliation?
3:28 am
>> there is a brotherhood, you don't want to see your colleagues hurt, and what i have seen is significant problems at a leadership level, and that's not to get anybody in trouble. i think one family in dhs being hurt is enough, and i think there needs to be corrective action. i lost my train of thought. did that answer your question? >> it does. thank you, mrs. johnson. senator carper. >> thank you to all of you for being here and sharing your stories with us. on veteran's day i went up and down the state of delaware and there were a number of places where we met with veterans young and old and their families, and families of people that died serving our country, and it was a wonderful up lifting of their service. one of the things that delaware is noted for, we are the first state to ratify the constitution, and one of the gatherings that we had was in dover, delaware.
3:29 am
the constitution of our country was first ratified in dover, delaware, on december 7th, 1887, -- 1787, over 200 some years ago, and as you close down the streets, the main streets in town, and the intersection of state street and lockman street, we had veterans and their families in a big circle around the intersection, and we were gathered about 200 yards where the golden fleece tavern once stood, and i invited the folks that were there that day, i invited other people in assemblies that day, i invited to join me in doing something a lot of us did when we were in school, and that's to recite the preamble to our constitution. i would read a few words and
3:30 am
they would repeat them, and we did this up and down the state. i love doing it and i think people loved doing it as well, and it starts off with these words, we the people of the united states in order to form a more perfect union -- think about that. in order to form a more perfect union, and it doesn't say in order to form a perfect union, but a more perfect union. and one of my core values is everything i do i know i can do better. they realized it was not perfect and they realized the future generations had to do better and better and better.
3:31 am
as mrs. divine notes, we have been working at this as a whistle-blower protection. it was first adopted in the 1980s, and i don't recall who was president when it was signed into law. make sure your mic is on? >> president reagan was in office when congress first passed it but bush signed it. >> we have been working on this a while, signed into law by our current president. i want to ask you if you would mr. divine, thinking about the enhancements we adopted in 2012, why they are an improvement over what existed before that, and could you walk us through a few more other changes you believe
3:32 am
are needed and give us a couple real-life examples of how those changes would improve whistle-blower protections? >> i think the most significant are following through and completing the structural reforms would help the rights to be implemented. the congress had to pass the law four times because there was not normal access to the appeals court in the one court that handled all the cases, it was extremely hostile, and the lack of healthy competition was an achilles' heel. the wpea structurally had a five-year experiment with access to the appeals law. that needs to be made permanent. the second structural reform is if there is not a speedy administrative ruling, like all the corporate whistle blower
3:33 am
statutes, being able to start fresh in court, and this district court access is particularly significant, get the politics out of the cases when it's a politcally charged dispute or an extremely high stakes one, or when it's highly complex or technical and you need the resources of the district court. it was set up to resolve office disputes not to deal with major issues of national policy. with respect to the administrative agencies, i think that there needs to be some very intensive training of the administrative judges at the merit system's protection board. we have to train all the government managers and bureau kratz and the people conducting
3:34 am
-- bureaucrats and the people conducting the administrative hearings, they need to get up to speed on the law, too. unfortunately the decisions have been very, very uneven. at the u.s. office of special council rblgs i council, i think the area that congress, besides just oversight, the area congress could make the most difference is by giving them the authority to issue stays or temporarily relief. the -- in my experience, the most significant factor, and it was a long-term marathon nightmare or whether the agencies decide to get serious and have a resolution that both sides can live with and move on from, is whether there is temporary relief, and that will make a huge difference. finally the issues of the national security loophole in retaliatory investigations which threatened every witness this
3:35 am
morning for which they have very uncertain rights and that's the menu of work to be done. >> thank you for all of that. several of you today are wearing uniforms and others have worn them, some in the army and navy. what branch of service did you serve in, mr. ducos? >> the department of homeland security. the component is u.s. custom and border protection. >> i thought you served on active duty? >> yes, the united states army aviation. >> i spent five years in southeast asia, and another 18 years in a cold war and i was a naval flight officer, and retired navy captain and commander in chief, and i have huge respect for you particularly those of you that have worn those uniforms and thank you for your service in that regard. >> the slogan back then really helped me a lot, be all you can
3:36 am
be. >> that's good. that's good. take a minute and tell us, just a minute, and tell us with respect to how we treat whistle blowers who are civilians as opposed to those that are military personnel. since we have both civilian and military personnel on the panels today, can you briefly discuss the differences between whistleblower protections between the two. >> it's the lowest common denominator in the lowest code -- u.s. code for accountability through whistleblower protection. the key differences between the civilian and military law is first the military law does not have the fair burdens of proof that give whistle blowers a fighting chance in their hearings, and the second is there is no right to a administrative due process hearing. everything is enforced by the
3:37 am
department of the office inspector general. again, we have numerous whistle blowers from that unit whose disclosures are it's operating as a plumber's unit, to finish off the people, and we need due process and there is no judicial review there. there is outstanding legislation which is the service members justice act which has been introduced by senator boxer and vetted by all the whistleblower supported organizations that could even the playing field. >> i would just share, mrs. johnson, this is pertinent to what you said earlier, for years the department of homeland
3:38 am
security has called on congress to make changes. earlier this month there was an eb5 program and senator grassly and leahy introduced legislation that reflects changes, and i am encouraged by that. >> i saw that, sir. i think that's great. >> senator carper, thank you. our next is senator urnst. >> thank you. ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for being here today. i appreciate it so much. i want to take a moment and thank you for your service to this nation and to all of you as well, but you have been in very difficult circumstances, and i appreciate you being here today. as somebody that has served i
3:39 am
take this very seriously, in my new role as a senator and somebody that made a commitment to protect our men and women that surferved in the united states armed forces, whether they are still serving or in the past, and whether it's through proper medical care or through the va and whether it's in your circumstance, we will make sure that is a priority. i will take just a little bit of issue with your testimony. in here, sir, you say you have failed, and you have not failed. i will never accept that because what you have done is raise an issue that is extremely important to this nation and making sure that we receive those hostages back, so you have not failed. we have just not yet succeeded. so that day will come. we will make sure that that day comes. so to you, thank you so much for all of your efforts, and we will continue working on this. i look forward to working with you, senator johnson, on some of the very specific issues especially with the good
3:40 am
colonel. to the rest of you, i do want to ask very briefly, my time is very limited here today, but those of you, and i know you have recent cases, but have there been any repercussions for those that came after you and retaliated against you? have you seen any correction from that end, if you could just briefly, mr. ducos-bello, can you start just very briefly, can you see those retaliation against you be disciplined. >> it started in 2012, and to this day it's ongoing. i was disarmed for no reason like my fellow law enforcement officer here, illegally.
3:41 am
they turned every single stone they could find during my 20 years career and could not find anything. my review performance is fully successful throughout the years. i don't have this because somebody gave it to me as a gift. i earned them. this one is the blue eagle award that i received for meticulously searching and researching a container coming from columbia with 8,000 pounds of cocaine and when i was in the field, i was very diligent doing and discharging my duties, and i move up the chain of command the right way, not by making a network of friends, but by earning my rank, my position and to this day, the agency treats me with no respect and for the past six months i have been sitting in a folding chair
3:42 am
with no desk, no duties, no program to manage, nothing, i just show my face for eight hours and all my talents are going to waste. >> no correction on the retaliators? >> no correction. they are fixated that they have not done anything wrong, and as a whistleblower i committed the worst crime by taking the aul away from the border control and the cbb officers that changed their series from 1895 to 1801 in order for them to be seduced by the border patrol in drawing that aul, and now, you tell me i am an 1895, abide by the constitution to obey and
3:43 am
discharge the law, and how come in less than an hour in the library of congress i came upon the regulations and the law that governs the use of auo. and for those who don't know what auo means, it's the uncontrolled overtime they draw out at 25% of their nearly salary. >> thank you. i would like to move to just very briefly to some of the other members on our panel. thank you very much for being here. mr. keegan? >> thank you, senator. i have absolutely no knowledge there's been any accountable repercussion any way involving senior leadership -- i'm sorry. senior leadership at the social security administration. i can quickly characterize this in two areas.
3:44 am
if you recall my testimony, i testified that my supervisor mr. spencer, testified at a deposition under oath that he cannot categorically agree that misrepresenting facts to congress was not ethical. the second thing i'll tell you is there's a mentality at the social security administration concerning bad information stays in the house. we do not air our dirty laundry to congress. we protect our leadership at all costs. third, i would just say in my 44-year career in the military private sector and senior executive of four agencies, the social security agency has the worst track record of accountability and taking responsibility for their actions that i've ever seen. i do not mean that in a flippant manner, but i mean that sincerely. >> ms. johnson? >> [ inaudible ]. >> i appreciate that. and colonel, yours is a very special case. any specifics that you would like us to know?
3:45 am
>> no, ma'am. >> thank you very much for your testimony today. thank you, mr. chair. >> senator portman. >> thank you to chairman johnson and ranking member carper for having the hearing. mostly to thank you all for being here and being willing to share your sometimes very personal experiences and troubling experiences. i saw mr. devine's testimony before i came in today. he repeated it. in his remarks he said this is one of your highest risk audiences. i hope at the end of the day you're glad you shared your testimony and we don't end up being a high risk to you. we need the information. and, you know, this committee in particular is an oversight committee. our job is to ensure our community works better for all the hard-paying taxpayers we represent. it's really important you're here today.
3:46 am
to put some context around it. what really happened to you, and to your responses a moment ago as to -- from senator ernst as to what has happened that's changed in the department. it's discouraging. i do think ms. johnson that the legislation that you mentioned earlier affirmatively, you thought it was a good idea to move forward on some reforms. maybe congress is able to move on some legislative changes. i want to talk about that for a second and maybe talk about the military side. there's been some discussion. mr. devine was asked about the military whistleblower protections versus other departments and agencies. it's the lowest common denominateor denominator. talked about the burden of proof and lowest common denominator. he was concerned about due process hearing. one of my concerns is about what
3:47 am
the gao has said. in may of this year they issued a report. it was about investigations into retaliation complaints from military whistleblowers. they took three times longer than the legal requirement of 180 days. so that alone seems to me to indicate we have a problem on the military side. it also talked about the chain of command issue that service members are to report wrongdoing outside the chain of command but that conflicts with other military guidance and that's difficult, therefore, to go outside the chain of command and have an independent process. so i guess, if i could, colonel, to you, the ig responded to the gao report by saying they concurred with the recommendation and were committed to requiring service investigators to attest they were outside the chain of
3:48 am
command but both service members submitting the individual were alleged to have taken retaliatory action. is this sufficient to ensure independence from the chain of command in your view? >> i believe it is. i mean, the dod ig has a very difficult job and their treatment of me as i filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint with them was first class. it is a slow process. but i haven't hit the 180 days yet. so the investigation is ongoing and they are working it as hard as they can. >> i'm glad to hear that in your case. and in terms of the complaints that have taken almost three times longer than the legal requirement of 180 days we talked about, why do you think that is, and what should the ig do to respond to that?
3:49 am
what should we be doing legislatively in terms of the overall instruction of the whistleblower retaliation? >> some of that is beyond anything i claim expertise in. so i have to scope it down to what i'm seeing. in my case, i had a retirement date of june 1st that everybody was aware of. the dod ig reviewed my complaint that included the information that supposedly was at -- is a security violation of representative hunter and through the joint staff they determined that my complaint was not classified, which would pretty much make the information
3:50 am
i spoke to hunter about, which by design was meant to be unclassified, was actually unclassified. >> it was the fbi that said they thought it was classified, correct? >> the fbi filed a complaint and even, you know, in a session representative hunter basically said that, well, we had to put him in his place. they felt it was one of those things where it's a shot across the bow. they did that with a criminal allegation. so they kind of underestimated the effect of telling the army that i'm leaking secret information, and that led to the situation i'm in right now. on the positive side it allowed me to share with you aspects of the broader dysfunction i was dealing with, but in terms of resolving this, it should have been resolved with a simple conversation before the fbi complained, i notified my chain of command what was happening and they told me you did nothing wrong. and someone more senior for
3:51 am
unknown reasons demanded this be thoroughly investigated. ok. that's fine. but in five months, nobody has spoken to me about what actually occurred. and that's where i think you run into the issue is, the only organization that, to me, is actually kind of effectively run through this so far is dod ig. everything they did i felt was first class, regardless of how they ultimately conclude this in the end. then getting out to interview everyone involved is very difficult because they'll approach someone and in the interview, who is going to incriminate themselves. the dod ig has an enormously difficult task, and the time lines are the things that really they have to be in force. 180 days is actually kind of hell for someone trying to retire from the military and start a new career, but from what i've seen, i understand why it is 180 days. but the chain of command on top
3:52 am
of that needs to have a role in this where i don't understand why when the army heard that there's an allegation of me speaking to representative hunter that they didn't think that maybe they ought to dig into it a bit before they started criminal charges. and when they deleted my retirement they can only do that with an eye toward court-martial. all i could take away from this is they are seeking to court-martial me under allegations of sharing sensitive information with a representative on the house armed services committee. it's ridiculous in my mind but, obviously, i'm the criminal in this case. the chain of command should have stepped up and realized they needed to handle this a little more smartly than going after me with cid investigation. >> and had a conversation with you at the outset, which you indicate they didn't have. they didn't ask you. is that correct?
3:53 am
>> my chain of command never spoke to me. the only time i was spoken to was on january 15th when this began when i was told i'd be escorted out of the pentagon because i'm under criminal investigation. >> thank you, colonel. we've discussed the igs and office of special counsel. maybe ms. johnson you can talk about your experience with the ig. has the inspector general been responsive to your concerns? >> yes, they have. two investigations have been opened. not really at libertiy to talk about that. they were able to open an investigation into the personnel actions and the whistleblowing complaint. in addition to some other investigations related to that criminal investigation. they were -- they have a lot more authority as far as subpoena powers that i think the osc -- in my case the osc had a
3:54 am
really tough time getting my agency to cooperate with the documents giving them what would make them look good versus what was requested. the opr system for us, at least at the dhs level was awful. it's my opinion that that needs to be made permanent. the asac, the rac and the sac are all agents from los angeles under sac los angeles. for me going through that opr process on the numerous allegations that came up after the cb-5 and during was -- it was an awful process. the sac communicating back and forth. but the osc was initially good at finding that and so was the oig in seeing the communications and conflict of interest. but the ig was probably above and beyond the best one so far
3:55 am
as investigating. >> so helpful in trying to figure it out, but they didn't have the subpoena powers. the authority to get the information in a timely basis, where the ig was able to be more effective. >> right. they kept running into walls. >> thank you, mr. chairman and appreciate you all being here and willing to testify before us. >> mr. devine in your testimony, again, i was looking at these laws ahead of time. for me it started back in 1978. i guess it is with the civil service act. but in your testimony, you enlightened me that it started with the act in 1912. and you said it was an anti-retaliation law created a no exceptions right to communicate with congress. >> yes, sir. >> really the point we're talking about here with lieutenant colonel amerine. an absolute no exception right to communicate with congress.
3:56 am
what's gone haywire? in particular, the question i asked earlier, i keep asking myself why? coming from the private sector i am always looking for individuals to know what's going on so i can address problems. so, again, we should be pinning medals on these people's chests as opposed to retaliating. tell me about that law but also is there some very common, very universal answer to the question why? >> the lloyd act is a principle but it's tempered because there's no procedure to enforce it and no remedies even if you found a violation somehow. so it's just a symbolic law. it's been waiting a long time to get some teeth in it. as far as the more fundamental
3:57 am
question, i've asked myself that for a long time, senator, and i think my own insights are that the federal agencies and some private organizations, too behave this way almost as the institutional equivalent of an animal instinct. an animal's instinct is to destroy anything that threatens it. and organizations behave the same way. in fact, i do. maybe there's a lesson to be learned from that and we should talk this through. what's the cause of that. i want to flatten that person that attacked me because i'm angry, they hurt me and i don't want to give them a chance to do it again. this is the way institutions react to whistleblowers. snuff out the threat. it's unfortunate. very shortsided. whistleblowers are like the bitter pill that keeps you out of the hospital. bad news in the short term.
3:58 am
don't kill the messenger. >> that's awful general as i listen to the four witnesses here. in my mind i can at least assume some specific lives, somebody being protected. some piece of information that we didn't want to have disclosed, like for lieutenant colonel amerine. there was a deal of seven marines for one taliban. there might have been a ransom paid that was stolen. i'm going to get back to the other witnesses to find out their specific why. isn't it -- i'm looking for your knowledge because you've been dealing for this. is it protecting an individual or people in power? >> part of it is the structure of the communications. when a whistemblower works up the chain of command, sooner or later you reach someone who is maybe responsible for the
3:59 am
wrongdoing and a conflict of interest kicks in by someone who has power over the messenger. that's why it's so important when there is that confluct, it's not just a mistake that everyone wants to fix but someone has engaged in wrongdoing. but they have access to safe clear access to congress to circumvent the conflict of interest and get some independent response to their concerns. >> that's why we set up our whistleblower at i'm assuming that for individuals here will have some protection for coming forward. i want to pick up with you. can you point to a why? i'm going to ask the other whistleblowers, what does it cost? i understand in terms of this retaliation, there's reputational harm.
4:00 am
that's a cost. it's a grave cost. having a hostile work environment in all kinds of ways. sitting on a folding chair, not having a desk, all those types of things. i want the dollar cost. i really want you to let us know how has this cost you financially. first, mr. keegan, i want to give you an answer of why. why in your case. >> why i think it was done? >> yeah. was somebody trying to protect themselves? was it just this general overall we want to protect the social security administration? >> well, i believe, senator, having sat in a number of high-level meetings at social security in the months prior to this debacle that happened to me, acting commissioner colton was in the beginning stages of -- colvin was in the beginning stages of believing she was going to be nominated and then finally being nominated. in at least three meetings, the chief of staff, james kisco made the statement. nothing is going to leave this
4:01 am
agency that is going to embarrass carolyn colvin. i can't make a direct connection between that and what happened to me, but it certainly makes some sense to me. to answer your question of what it cost me. i had a 44-year career military, 12 years in the private sector and 12 years. -- 12 years senior executive service. i had awards and promotions until my very last performance review at the social security administration which capped off my 44 years and basically destroyed everything i worked for in my career. it cost me practically my marriage, to be perfectly frank. one year of sitting in an office staring at four walls and watching a clock tick, being a very high energy results oriented person for me was a death by a thousand cuts. what it cost me financially, i finally could not take it anymore and i retired.
4:02 am
i retired five years early. i was not financially prepared to retire. i've not been able to git a job for two reasons. i can't get a reference. and how do i explain how i went from a member of the senior executive service to a nonsupervisory adviser with no accountability and no duties. i think my wife would tell you the cost has been inordinate and enormous. >> mr. decos-bello. >> the biggest cost has been watching my son jump out of his high school roof because he saw his father lost his uniform, his weapon. he's always been very proud of my career and the way i perform my duties. not only at work but off duty.
4:03 am
i have raised three excellent children, but it was the most costing and emotionally devastating thing that i had to do, receive that phone call that no father wants to receive that your son is on the roof of his high school getting ready to jump because his father is going through a whistleblower retaliation action. luckily, i was there. i got in time. police was there. and the fire department was there with the jumping blanket. he finally jumped, and he was held by county police and wouldn't let nobody arrest him. he has to be arrested by his father. and with great pain, i picked my son, who is autistic, to come down to the office, put the handcuffs on him and then followed in my vehicle and spent two days in the hospital talking
4:04 am
to him. my problem was going to be resolved eventually. that patience will pay off. financially, it has cost me over $41,000 in lawyers fees, just to keep my job. i'm in debt up to my neck, but as a responsible citizen, i pay all of them and waiting that hopefully one day i can be compensated for all the troubles that financially i have put myself into because i did the right thing. this is very hard for me. i'm reliving something that no father wants to relive, but it has put a strain, like mr. keegan said, a big strain on my 26-year marriage.
4:05 am
luckily for me, i have a very supporting wife that i can talk to. i used the employee assistance program, went to therapy and talked to a counselor, and she told me, you haven't done anything wrong. you should be proud of yourself. and why did we create this new enhancement whistleblower protecting act in 2012? if we are not going to clear the air and punish the guilty and protect the whistleblower. >> thank you. ms. johnson? >> yes, sir. i think a few things that folks said just about protecting people in power, the lieutenant here -- is it colonel or lieutenant? lieutenant colonel, i'm sorry. just having common sense and starting a conversation could
4:06 am
just -- there wasn't that communication there. but i think ultimately as far as reasons it is protecting people. maybe our leadership not having the courage to stand up and say, ok, these are our people. we need to take care of them. it's supposed to be a family. and that's not all their fault. there's been a lot of people with them. we're all dealing with a number of things. >> i was looking for the cost. >> oh, i'm sorry. i thought you said the cause. there's always that financial cost with legal fees. i had a great job so i adopted my two little girls. so i have two older ones from -- so i have four kids and i'm in the middle of an adoption. my salary was affected. i didn't get a step increase. not only did i add two kids to my household but i didn't get my increase. they finally fixed that.
4:07 am
the phone calls. there's a huge cost to being an active member to your family. the joy is sucked out of your life. i'm pretty fun. i like to work hard and go home and play hard. you lose a little bit of that because it really just sucks it out of you. >> lieutenant colonel? >> i mean, for me, i had to burn two months of leave that i had intended to use for retirement leave. that was about $18,000 because initially when my security clearance was suspended they moved me out of a top secret facility to a secret open storage facility where they -- my presence in and of itself would have represented a security violation while i'm rnd -- under investigation for a
4:08 am
security violation. so, i mean, i took two months leave just to get out of there and not to further incriminate myself. and thanks to my jag lieutenant colonel bill ruling, i was able to finally get assigned to a position where i wouldn't be committing a security violation by going to work. there's some legal fees. we'll see how far that goes. the broader cost to me is what it shows the younger erer -- younger soldiers and officers in the army. we always have difficulty with our junior officers and junior noncommissioned officers showing them that, you know, remaining in the military, working your way up the ranks is something you ought to aspire to do. and all these officers that i knew as cadets see what's happening to me and the example set for them is terrible. what does it do in the army? the army is killing itself with things like this.
4:09 am
when you go after people reporting significant issues and crimes. when you go after people who are whistleblowing, although i still loathe the term, you end up setting a terrible example for all the people seeing the retal retaliation. that's the cost to me that matters, what it's doing to my army. >> lieutenant colonel, i think that really is, in the end, the final answer of why. whether it's organizational or protecting somebody else, it's trying to make an example of somebody so the next person doesn't step forward. isn't that kind of the bottom line? senator carper? >> several of you, again, thank you so much for being here, for sharing your stories with us and for your service, past and present to our country. several of you have said things that reminded me of a sad chapter in our state last week
4:10 am
when we buried the son of joe biden. and joe biden has this saying that i've heard him use any number of times when he's spoken at funerals. and he has said, talking to the family of the deceased, that his hope was that some day would come when the thought of that individual would bring a smile to their face before a tear to their eye. several of you said the word whistleblower is not a term of endearment. my hope is that you live long enough and we do, too, that just like vice president biden talked about the thought of a loved one bringing a smile to the face of the surviving family members, my hope is that, in the future,
4:11 am
people in our government, our country when they hear the term whistleblower, it will bring a smile to their face before it brings a tear to their eye. that's one thing. second thing, i want to say, i want to go back to dover air force base. dover air force base is one of the finest air force bases in the world. some of you have been there. they are the best air base we have in the world. they had a sacred duty there that involved not so much airlift as it did a mortuary and receiving the bodies, the remains of fallen heroes. and there were things going on in that mortuary that were inappropriate. they were wrong. and some folks who work there
4:12 am
knew about it. and tried to get a change from within. were not successful. and they ended up going on the outside. they came to our senate office. and we were not sure initially if this was credible, but they won us over. they convinced us. they were there for the right reasons. the office of special counsel got involved. and i want to tell you, i was impressed. i didn't know a lot about the office of special counsel, but they were like a dog with a bone trying to make sure that justice was done. i go to the air force base a lot. important constituent of ours, our delegation. and one of the last visits i went over to the base last year. i went back to the mortuary.
4:13 am
incredible facility. some of the hardest work done by anyone that's served in the u.s. military is the work done with the folks there with the remains. if you've ever been there. it's incredible work they do. i applaud them for the work that they do. but some people did not adhere to the high standards they should have. i went back to the mortuary last year. when i walked in, the first couple of people i saw were the whistleblowers. and i looked around to find the colonel who used to run the place, long gone, and i looked around for the civilian personnel who reported to the colonel. long gone. and you know who were running the place? the team that included the whistleblowers. more committed than ever to doing the right thing. the right thing. i want to ask you to talk a
4:14 am
little bit about the -- the entity counsel that -- the special counsel that actually got involved in this case in dover. i'm sure they're not -- it's not the only instance where they did the large work and made sure that justice was done, but talk about the work that they do throughout the government. in this case it was in a military installation. talk about the work they do, and how can we help them do a better job? >> i think the office of special counsel is probably the best agency in the federal government for whistleblowers to seek justice. it's a low bar, but they're doing their best there. and it's particularly impressive because just four years ago, they were coming out of chaos where they were subject to fbi raids and the previous special counsel was kwuctconvicted of -- convicted of criminal
4:15 am
misconduct. they've come a long way. the area we're most impressed is the alternative dispute resolution, probably the most effective unit at getting a speedy resolution with just results for whistleblowers. they've been aggressive in using their new authority to file amicus curie briefs that have been outstanding. they've increased their corrective actions significantly there. they've overhauled their disclosure unit for whistleblowers to try to make a difference so it's more employee friendly and can hold the agencies accountable for following up and acting on the problems confirmed. those are all positive developments. we think that they can do better in their complaints examining unit. the quality of the reviews for screening these cases for investigations extremely uneven in my experience in reports that we received. we think that they need to go
4:16 am
for temporary relief more frequently. it's been going down in recent years. and that's the single most important factor there is for whistleblowers to get an acceptable ending. finally, we think they need to litigate some cases. the osc has told me that the reason they don't litigate is they always surrender when they -- >> the agencies what? >> they've said that they never really have a chance to go to trial and defeat a retaliation case because the agencies always surrender. i think they are picking the wrong enemies or wrong issues. we can help them foond some -- find some whifrtleblower cases where the agencies will fight back on disputes that make a difference. >> a closing thought, if i could. our thanks to each of you for
4:17 am
joining us today and for your service to our country, past and present. i would note as i did earlier in my opening statement, i think the chairman did as well, we have before us five very impressive people. but missing at the table are those who have another perspective on the stories that you've told. and i think we need to keep these in mind. these are matters still being adjudicated. and we'll have to let that process go forward. i'm encouraged by what you said mr. devine, about the changes that flow from adoption of the whistleblower enhancements act that we passed in 2012. with my support, that may be before chairman joint is here. i'm encouraged that it's working. i am also thankful to those of you who turned off your cell phones before you came in. [laughter]
4:18 am
the last thing i want to say is, you all talked about your core values. you have. and i have my own. the chairman has his own. actually, they're pretty similar. i'll close with these. number one, figure out the right thing to do. just do it. not the expedient thing. what's the right thing to do? we all need to do that including the folks who run these agencies where you feel you haven't been treated well. second is golden rule. treat people the way we want to be treated. and third i've referenced it already. the idea is to focus on excellence in everything we do. everything i do, i know i can do better. all these agencies we have, we can do better. we need to focus on it. in order to form a more
4:19 am
perfect union. and the last one, just don't give up. if you know you're right, think you're right, don't give up. never give up. and i think those are some of the core values that i hear sounded here today. and good values for us as individuals and for congress and for our country. thank you again. god bless. >> thank you, senator carper. i'd also like to thank all of our witnesses for your thoughtful testimony, your thoughtful answers to our questions. your courage for coming forward. i want to thank every whistleblower that has the korge -- courage to come forward to tell the truth. i agree with the goal of the act. an anti-retaliation law that created a no exceptions right to communicate. whistleblower@ronjohnson.senate. gov. i want to encourage others of courage to come forward. it's the only way we'll reform it is if we know about it. if the public has the light of
4:20 am
day shown upon abuse and corruption. again, thank you all for your testimony and coming forward. the hearing record will remain open until june 26th at 5:00 p.m. for submissions of statements for the record. this hearing is adjourned. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
4:21 am
[indiscernible] >> coming up this morning on c-span new york city police officers testifying on the 911 victims fund and then live at 7:00 a.m. washington journal with representatives kevin yoder of kansas and barbara lee of california. >> scott wong is a senior reporter, a senior staff writer for the hill, covering this shut up on capitol hill.
4:22 am
your headline today says g.o.p obama on a cusp of a fast track trade victory. tell us where we are in this process, the first vote today, what is it all about? scott: the first vote is the first of four trade votes. it kicks off the process. this one has to do with trade preferences. it would allow africa, african nations to be able to export their good to the united states duty-free. it would provide trade preferences for other developing nations. it is not a very controversial bill. the more controversial bills will be taking up tomorrow friday, but it is the first of four and it kind of gets the ball rolling for completion of this major trade package. >> what is it about the trade issues coming on friday that make them controversial? are they different things to democrats and republicans in the house?
4:23 am
scott: well, the two major bills coming up tomorrow are of course t.a.a. which has to do with providing benefits to workers who have been negatively impacted by trade. that is seen as a critical vote ahead of a second trade vote t.p.a., which is the so-called fast track bill that would give president obama greater trade authority to get some of these big deals -- trade deals done. in particular, one with 11 pacific rim nations. t.a.a. will be a critical component of getting the fast track bill done and basically, you know, right now, the big question is whether some of these last remaining hiccups that nancy pelosi and john boehner have been negotiating
4:24 am
these past few days, will any of these derail t.a.a., which is critical to getting t.p.a. done. >> well, let's talk about the politics, assuming all of the members are present and voting in the house, the number they would need is 218 to pass the measure. as we speak midday here thursday, the president's labor secretary, his chief of staff up on capitol hill lobbying democrats at least to pass these measures. what is the message from the administration? scott: the message from the administration is that these bills are critical for president obama's economic agenda. that they will help create jobs. help, you know, help with exports and imports and of course, you know, we are seeing equal -- equal effort on the opposing side. we're seeing richard trump ca, the head of the aflcio, who has
4:25 am
been huddling with house democrats in the past hour trying to rally opposition to the trade package. you're seeing, you know, outside groups spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertisements, you know, trying to force democrats to back away from any sort of support for this trade measure. so we're really seeing a flurry of activity and it is getting into, you know, the final hours, you know, before these big votes. >> part of the hill coverage at, one of the headlines is 10 undecided house members to watch on trade. tell us about numbers. i understand we're watching in the middle of the day on thursday. what is your sense of how many democrats are going to support this measure and how many republicans will oppose? scott: well, the numbers have been all over the map in recent weeks. we did have -- you know, there is some certainty.
4:26 am
we know that roughly 20 democrats have pledged their support to supporting this trade package. that will be critical because republicans don't believe that they have enough support within their own conference to pass this on their own. what we're hearing roughly from g.o.p leadership and other whip sources is republicans will need anywhere from 190 and 200 votes and then they will be aided by roughly 20-30 democrat votes and that would be on the g.p.a. -- t.p.a. package. the fast track package. t.a.a. dealing with the workers, works assistance, workers aid, that would be carried mostly by democrats. that is a priority of democrats who have insisted that workers aid be part of this package in order for them to support the
4:27 am
fast track bill. democrats will be -- we haven't seen it yet but democrats should be supporting -- more democrats should be supporting the t.a.a. bill. we'll see more republicans supporting the t.p.a. bill. >> those votes coming up tomorrow correct? scott: right. those votes will come up tomorrow. today is a trade preferences bill which kind of gets the process going. speaker boehner is kind of rolling the dice. he is gambling that his side has the momentum right now. i think there is also a concern among leadership, among even the white house, that the longer you postpone these votes, if you push it into next week, there is a risk of starting to lose that momentum. you give opponents a greater
4:28 am
opportunity to rally against these measures, to spend money in congressional districts, you know, in terms of television ads and so i think, you know, speaker boehner is making a calculation and the white house is making a calculation that they need to strike now while they feel the momentum is on their side. >> where is the senate in the trade process? scott: well, this -- most of this package already has passed the senate. so, you know, they are taking up what essentially are senate-passed bills. there is a concern -- there has been a concern this week that if you tweak some of those senate-passed bills with amendments that democrats have demanded, then you'd have to send, you know, part of this package back to the senate and that raises more uncertainty that, you know, further delays the process if the house can keep intact the senate bill and pass it this week then it gets
4:29 am
forwarded on the president's desk for his signature which is a much easier process than trying to send it back to the senate. >> scott wong, senior staff writer for the hill. you can read more on and follow tweets today and more at scott wong d.c. thanks for joining us. scott: thank you. >> on thursday the house debate. eight democrats voted yes and 34 republicans voted no. today votes on the two trade authority bills. the trade promotion authority or fast track would grant president obama authority to submit unamendable trade agreements to congress for up or down votes. trade adjustment assistance, t.a.a. is a federal program to help workers who lose their job because of free trade. votes are expected when the house returns at 9:00 a.m. eastern.
4:30 am
coming up today a hearing on ac-an e.p.a. rule that would change air quality standards. live starting at 9:30 a.m. eastern on c-span 3. >> on c-span's road to the white house, more presidential hopefuls announce their candidacy for president. former secretary of state hillary clinton will commander-in-chief kick off her campaign with a speech that will outline her agenda as a candidate. 11:00 a.m. eastern. on monday afternoon at 3:00 we're live at miami-dade college where former florida governor jeb bush will financially announce his candidacy and then businessman donald trump ahouse
4:31 am
ins whether or not he will make a bid for the presidency. you can watch all of these events online at c spnch >> next a look at reauthorizing the 911 victims fund through 2041. it would eliminate caps on payments to the
4:32 am
the authorization of the health program ends on september 30 2015. another part of the law, the september 11 victim compensation fund, is under the jurisdiction of the judiciary committee. it will continue to accept applications until october 3 2016 over a year after the health program authorization ends. the w.t.c. health program funds networks of specialized medical programs. and these programs are designed
4:33 am
to monitor and treat those with 9/11-related conditions. for responders, the world trade center medical monitoring and treatment program, for survivors, the n.y.c. health and hospitals corporation, w.t.c. environmental health center, for nyfd personnel, the fire department of new york responder health program, the national program, the w.t.c. health program, has a nationwide network of clinics with providers across the country for responders and survivors who live outside the new york city metropolitan area. these programs provide free medical services by health care professionals who specialize in 9/11-related conditions. our colleagues, representatives carolyn maloney, peter king and
4:34 am
jerrold nadler, have jointly introduced legislation, h.r. 1786. the 9/11 health and compensation re-authorization act. which re-authorizes the act. this legislation has begun an important conversation that will lead to a timely and fully offset re-authorization of the health program. today's hearing will allow us to learn more about how the program is working and whether changes are needed. we will hear from the director of the national institute for occupational safety and health who is responsible for administering the program, as well as from the medical director of the robert wood jops medical school and two first responders who are enrolled in the world trade center health program.
4:35 am
i look forward to the testimony today and i would like to yield the balance of my time to the gentleman from new jersey, representative lance. mr. lance: thank you, mr. chairman. it is my honor to welcome david howelly, a constituent of mine in new jersey's seventh congressional district, to the committee this morning. david, thank you for making the trip from new jersey to share your story and advocate for those who cannot be with us today. we look forward to your testimony. i first met david several months ago when he came into my office in westfield, new jersey, to discuss the bill before us today. this re-authorization act is i think critically important. david has been a tremendous advocate for the legislation because, as he will detail in his testimony, he knows firsthand the importance of these programs for him and his fellow first responders and survivors. david joined the new york police
4:36 am
department in 1985 and served in various departments over his 20-year tenure. he's a third generation law enforcement official, following the tradition of his father and grandfather. he was serving in the nypd operations division on september 11 2001, and spent the next several months in the dust and rubble of ground zero. i'm proud to have david here with us today and i'm proud to be a co-sponsor of this critical legislation. it is my hope, mr. chairman, that we can work in a bipartisan fashion to move this legislation forward quickly, and i look forward to voting for it not only here and in full committee but on the floor of the house of representatives. mr. chairman, i yield back the balance of my time. mr. pitts: the chair thanks the gentleman. i also would note that some of our colleagues from the new york delegation who are not on the committee but very concerned of this issue and sponsors of the legislation have requested to sit on the dias and we welcome them this morning.
4:37 am
mr. green: thank you, mr. chairman, for holding the hearing on this important program. i thank the witnesses today and to the first responders in the audience who for their bravery and service both on and after the tragic day of 9/11. thank you for coming today to share your personal experiences to the committee and shed light on the significance of the world trade center health programs. no one here can forget the horrific attacks perpetrated upon our country at the world trade center in new york, the pentagon and washington, and at the field in shanksfield, pennsylvania. during and after the attacks tens of thousands of first responders, including police firefighters, emergency medical workers, jumped into action to assist and to rescue, recovery and cleanup. as a result of their service these responders were exposed to dust, smoke, toxins such as concrete, glass, par tick late matter and asbestos. this caused many of them to develop a spectrum of
4:38 am
debilitating diseases including respiratory disorders and cancers. a g.a.o. report on the 9/11 health program suggested that firefighters who responded to the attack, quote, experienced a decline in lung function equivalent to that of which produced by 12 years of aging. in addition to the physical ailments, these heroes now, many have suffered posttraumatic stress syndrome, psychological trauma. nearly one decade after the september 11 terrorist attacks the 9/11 health and compensation act was signed into law in 2010. this act created the world trade center health program within the department of health and human services. the program provided a evaluation, monitoring and treatments to first responders and certified eligible survivors of the world trade center-related illnesses.
4:39 am
it also established a network of clinical centers of excellence and data centers. for these responders and survivors who reside outside of new york, the act created a national network of health providers who provide the same types of services for world trade center-related illnesses. while cancer was not originally listed among the statutory w.t.c. related health conditions, 60 types of cancer were eated in 2012 after a petition by members of congress. as of may 5 of this year, 3,700 members of the health program had cancer. the act also established the victims' compensation fund that provides compensation for harm service suffered as a result of debris removal. without action by congress funding for the current health program will terminate on september of 2016. the authorization will re-authorize the critical world trade center health program and the victims' compensation fund. as required under the current program, new york city will continue to pay 10% of the total cost.
4:40 am
it's important to note that w.t.c. health program serves our heroes nationwide and extends far beyond new york area. both these and currently enrolled and future enrollees live in all areas of the country. in fact, as of august, 2014, 429 of the 435 congressional districts were home to at least one 9/11 responder or survivor. we've not abandoned those who were bravely sacrificed their own well-being in the wake of the terrible attacks. we have a duty to serve our first responders and survivors and heros with complex health care from 9/11. it's important that we support the health compensation re-authorization act. i'd like to thank the first responders for their gallant self-service, on and after 9/11. i'd also like to thank the doctors and administrators of the program for their efforts to treat the conflicts, illnesses afict -- afflicted on our first
4:41 am
responders and continue the research. mr. chairman, someone on our side of the aisle would like a minute, i'd be glad to yield to them. i'd like to yield to my colleague from new york. >> i thank the ranking member of the subcommittee as well as the chairman and welcome my witnesses here today. mr. clarke: while not a member of -- ms. clarke: while not a member of the subcommittee, i am a member of the full committee. congresswoman clarke of new york. i wanted to thank chairman pitts and ranking member green for holding this hearing and allowing me to sit in this very important hearing. also i want to thank our panelists. it's good that you've shared your experiences and remind america of the importance of renewing this very important program. this is a great first step toward re-authorization in a time
4:42 am
when the american people, the scept-- are skeptical about the work of congress, i'm happy that this committee is working in a bipartisan fashion to move expeditiously to renew this important health program. congress must move forward to ensure first responders and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the world trade center, the pentagon and shanksville, pennsylvania, continue to receive the care they deserve and they so sorely need. with that, mr. chairman, mr. ranking member, i yield back the time. mr. green: mr. chair, i yield back. mr. pitts: the chair thanks the gentleman. now i recognize the gentleman, mr. upton, five minutes. mr. upton: thank you, mr. chairman. back on september 11, 2001, the world as we knew it was turned upside down by the unthinkable acts of terrorism, which took the lives of nearly 3,000 individuals in new york, pennsylvania and virginia. left a mark on every american. everyone -- every one of us was impacted. from the smoldering ruins of the twins towers and the pentagon, to the wreckage of united airlines flight 93, the painful images and heartbreaking personal stories of that day
4:43 am
every minute, will not be forgotten. we remember the thousands of innocent lives lost and the communities and loved ones they left behind and many of us met with those. we also honor the countless actings of heroism and leadership shown by the brave american men and women during those hours of pandemonium and in the days, weeks, months and now years that have followed. then for me, as chair of the telco subcommittee and this keb, i led a bipartisan delegation both to new york and to the pentagon. where we witnessed firsthand the valiant efforts of our first responders who were certainly exhausted, overwhelmed, but still working 24/7. first responders spent hours days in the air that was thick with dust and smoke, digging through the rubble, searching for survivors. when i visited ground zero, new york's finest were still
4:44 am
working around the clock in impossible conditions for the recovery aforethoughts -- efforts. their selfless work took a toll on their health. we know that. the federal government provided aid to those individuals who were injured and the families of those who were killed in the attacks through a discretionary grant program. as we should. 2011, the 9/11 health and compensation act established the world trade center health program and the victim compensation fund. ranking member frank pallone and our new york colleagues, rementsive maloney, king nadler, jointly introduced now h.r. 1786.
4:45 am
the 9/11 health and compensation re-altogether zakes act, which would re-altogether -- re-authorization act, which would re-authorize both of these programs. today we're going to focus on the world trade center health program as it is the program that falls in this committee's jurisdiction. the authorization for the world trade center health program ends at the end of september. just a few months from now. while the victims' compensation fund remains open to applicants into october of 2016. the w.t.c. health program funds networks, specialized medical programs designed to monitor and treat those with 9/11-related conditions. the members enrolled in the program are not just from the greater new york area. in 2014 there were 71,942 individuals in the world trade center health program from 429 of the 435 congressional districts. in fact, there are 75 michigan residents currently enrolled in the w.t.c. health program. today's hearing is, yes, an important opportunity to learn more about how the world trade center health program has operated since its authorization in 2010. and what is needed for it to successfully operate and meet the needs of its members in the future. i want to thank all of the witnesses today for taking the
4:46 am
time to be here. especially thank officer holly and detective burnett for their service to our great country for sharing their personal stories and struckles with this subcommittee. the bill needs to be passed. and i will look to consider every effort to make sure that we get it to the house floor prior to its -- prior to the end of september. so we'll have an opportunity to make sure that these victims are taken care of. i yield back the balance of my time. mr. pitts: the chair thanks the gentleman. now the chair is pleased to recognize the ranking member on the full committee, the gentleman who has many constituents impacted by this issue, mr. pallone, five minutes, for opening statement. mr. pallone: thank you, chairman pitts, and also chairman i particularly want to thank chairman upton for the comments he just made. you know, highlighting how we need to perceive this as a national program and impacting
4:47 am
people who came and helped out on 9/11 and the aftermath, from all parts of the country. my staff probably is tired of my telling this story, but i remember within a few days after the attack, we went up to new york city with president bush and i was standing next to this big yellow fire engine that said, high leaf, florida. i said, what is this truck doing? i think it was only one or two days after. and i wondered how it even got there so quickly. i talked to the fireman from florida and they said, we just -- as soon as this happened we just got in our fire truck and we drove up from florida. because we wanted to help. and it just struck me at the time about how so many people responded from all over the country and so many people were injured because of the fact that they were there for a few days or a few weeks or a few months even. so this bill is a critical first step in ensuring that the 9/11 health program is extended as
4:48 am
soon as possible. as you both already know, this is one of my top priorities for 2015 and i'm grateful for chairman pitts and upton, for your willingness to work with us to ensure the timely passage of this bill. i have to recognize all the first responders who are here and to whom we owe a depth of gratitude. i also want to acknowledge the doctor who runs the new jersey 9/11 health clinic. thank you for being here to share your expertise and experience with us today. and let me also mention all of the new yorkers, representative maloney, the sponsor of the bill, i don't know if representative nadler is here, but certainly he's been involved from the beginning. representative king i see, who joined the committee today as well as our representatives, yvette clarke, eliot engel and
4:49 am
my colleague from new jersey, leonard lance, who is the co-sponsor. since day one you've all fought tirelessly to ensure that our nation's 9/11 responders and survivors are cared for and i'm proud to fight alongside you. beyond the immediate loss of life of 9/11, we know with great documentation that thousands of first responders and survivors of the attacks are now suffering debilitating illnesses from its aftermath. in fact, more than 100 firefighters and 50 law enforcement officers have reportedly lost their lives to w.t.c.-related health conditions. additionaly, more than 1,500 active duty firefighters and e.m.s. personnel and over 550 law iners -- enforcement officers were forced to retire due to
4:50 am
w.t.c.-related health conditions. we now have a deep understanding of how the tons of dust, glass fragments and other toxins released into the air affected both responders and survivors. illnesses include respiratory diseases, mental health conditions and cancer. that's why the 9/11 health and compensation act signed into law in 2011 is so critical, it established a program to monitor and screen eligible responders and survivors and provides medical treatment to those who are suffering from world trade center-related diseases. what is so important to note is that this program isn't there to provide health insurance. these are complicated conditions that are chronic in nature and require special expertise to appropriately diagnose and treat. that is why the program includes a network of clinics and providers specifically trained to treat these diseases. it also ensures that providers and survivors bear no out-of-pocket costs associated with these particular health conditions. the w.t.c. health program currently provides monitoring and
4:51 am
treatment services for more than 71,000 responders and survivors. they reside in every state and in 429 of the 435 congressional districts. as some of you don't know, the law is named for james zadroga a new jersey hero who responded on 9/11 and spent hundreds of hours digging through world trade center debris. he died in 2006 from pulmonary disease and respiratory failure after his exposure to toxic dust ated the world trade center site. like him, thousands of people across our country came to the aid of our country and helped others at ground zero. those survivors should not be abandoned. i hope we can extend the health program without delay. i only have 30 seconds left for mr. engel. i apologize. but i yield to him. mr. engel: thank you. i thank the gentleman for yielding and let me agree with everything you said. in the aftermath of september 11, it's estimated that up to 400,000 americans were exposed to copeous amounts of smoke and toxic substances. as a result many of our heroes now suffer from these debilitating conditions. acute respiratory disorders, cancer, depression posttraumatic stress disorder, it goes on and on. it's heartbreaking that the 9/11 survivors and first responders who have already given so much
4:52 am
must now carry the burdens of these long ailments. i was proud to be an original co-sponsor of the 9/11 health and compensation act and i'm proud to be an original co-sponsor of the re-authorization we're discussing today. a failure on conditioning's part to pass this -- congress' part to pass this legislation would be an egregious affront to americans. i specifically say americans because the population of those who will benefit from this re-authorization spans the entire united states. it's 429 of the 435 congressional districts that benefit from these programs. so this is an issue of national performance. the first responders who rely on the world trade center health program did not hesitate to risk their lives for fellow americans on 9/11 and we should not hesitate to care for them now. it's critical importance that we permanently re-authorize the 9/11 health and compensation act. thank you, mr. pallone, thank you, mr. chairman. mr. pitts: the chair thanks the
4:53 am
gentleman and, as usual all members' opening statements will be made part of the record. that concludes our time for opening statement. i have a unanimous consent request i'd like to submit the following documents for the record. statements from representative peter king, new york second district, from the international association of firefighters, from the sergeants benevolent association, from the national association of police organizations and an article from the new york city's patrolmen benevolent association. without objection, so ordered. we have two panels today. on our first panel we have dr. john howard. director of national institute for occupational safety and health. thank you very much for coming today, dr. howard. your written statement will be made part of the record.
4:54 am
you'll be recognized for five minutes to make your opening statement at this time. you're recognized. dr. howard: thank you, mr. chairman and distinguished members of the committee. my name is john howard. i'm the administrator of the world trade center health program. i'm very pleased to appear before you today to discuss the program and those it serves who responded to or survived the september 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on new york city. and those who responded at the pentagon and in shanksville, pennsylvania. the program's members responded to an epic disaster and as a result suffer mental and physical injury, illness and the risk premature death. the program's members responded to the 9/11 disasterer from all 50 states and, it has been stated from 429 of the 435 congressional districts. the original effort to care for those affected by 9/11 toxic exposures operated as a series of cooperative agreements and grants. as a discretion arly funded program, it depended on year to
4:55 am
year appropriations, making it challenging to plan adequately for the members' ongoing health needs. in january, 2011, as has been stated, the 9/11 health and compensation act became law. stabilization of funding allows the program to more adequately care for 9/11 responders. in calendar year 2014, of the 71,942 current members enrolled in the program, 20,883 members received treatment for health conditions arising from hazardous exposures from 9/11 and 28,059 received health monitoring, to ensure early medical intervention for any developing health condition that is specified for coverage by the program. since the program's implementation, members have been treated for a number of different health conditions. for example, 11,473 members have been treated for asthma.
4:56 am
6,672 members have been treated for posttraumatic stress disorder. and 6,497 members have been treated for chronic respiratory disorders. the majority of our members suffer from multiple mental and physical health conditions and take multiple medications for these conditions. certain types of cancer were added to the list of health conditions covered by the program in late 2012. since then the program has certified 4,265 cases of cancer. the world trade center health program fills a unique need in the lives of our members and for our society. first, members are evaluated and treated by medical providers who have a depth of experience dating back to september 11, 2001, and the physical and mental health needs of 9/11 responders and survivors, they are very familiar with. their extensive clinical experience with the responder and survivor populations, as well as
4:57 am
their understanding of the role of exposure in causing disease exceeds the training of providers unfamiliar with the types of exposures and health conditions common to the 9/11 population. and how to make the connection between exposure and illness that this act requires. second, our members are receiving health care that cannot be provided or only provided with great difficulty by other types of insurance plans. for example, health insurance plans do not routinely cover work-related health conditions. leaving such coverage to workers' compensation insurance. however, worker compensation insurance often presents coverage challenges to members because their 9/11 health conditions often first manifest after 9/11, many years later. beyond the statute of limitations found in most state worker compensation laws.
4:58 am
the world trade center health program serves a vital role in overcoming the difficulties that members might otherwise experience in its absence. without the program, 9/11 responders and survivors might end up in limbo instead of in treatment. third, by providing evaluation and treatment for those most affected by 9/11 as a unified could he hort, the program -- cohort, the program greatly aids not only the individual members but also our national understanding of the long-term health affects of 9/11 including its affects on children. the program helps us better prepare for the medical needs arising from large scale, long duration disasters that might not hopefully occur ever in the future. thank you for the opportunity to testify and i'm happy to answer any questions you may have.
4:59 am
mr. pitts: the chair thanks the gentleman and i will begin the questioning and recognize myself five minutes for that purpose. dr. howard, would you continue to elaborate a little bit on the history of the world trade center health program? how it came to be, how it has changed over time? dr. howard: thank you. the program started as an immediate response to what doctors were seeing, especially with the new york city fire department, in what was called at that time, a world trade center cough. and those doctors and others that were recruited to the effort began to observe that individuals who were responding were becoming ill from inhalation of the dust and the toxins contained in the dust. so immediately through fema appropriations, c.d.c. and then
5:00 am
the national institute for occupational safety and health was able to offer grants and cooperative agreements so that those doctors could begin now, many, many years later, their first work in trying to articulate characterize the issues that responders were facing as survivors. mr. pitts: another question. what are the consequences of letting the world trade center health program expire in september of 2015? how would it effect the operation of the centers of the excellent a-- of excellence across the country and the patients who use these facilities and services? dr. howard: certainly any of us that receive health care from a particular health plan, if we're notified that that plan no longer exists, creates great stress in our life. we have to adjust to new providers and other changes. our efforts to help those who may be part of our discontinued program, let's hope that does


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on