Your Country Needs You
The U.S. defense budget for 2015, depending on which programs you count, has been pegged at roughly $585 billion. (As of this writing, the 2016 budget has not yet been voted on.) What may truly shock you is the claim that countless billions of taxpayer money has disappeared down the black hole of fraud. That’s your money and my money going into pockets where it shouldn’t. It’s also money that is not going to protect our troops—perhaps you remember the scandal of the body armor that failed to protect soldiers in battle.
Some sources claim that over eight times that amount—$8.5 trillion—is simply unaccounted for since 1996 in our defense spending. That doesn’t mean all of it went to fraudulent activity, of course, but it does mean that a lot of money over the past twenty years has vanished without a trace. You can bet at least some of it paid for fraudulent programs and items.
Changes in How the Business of Defense Is Done
Increasingly, the business of our country’s defense has been outsourced to private corporations and contractors. The Iraq war was the most privatized conflict in our history. U.S. soldiers on the ground were actually outnumbered by Pentagon-hired contractors at certain times: by 2008, we had 152,275 troops in Iraq—and 155,826 private contractors over there.
Outsourcing of military tasks to private contractors will probably continue. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; doing so is one way to enlarge our military capacity. However, turning so many tasks over to private contractors comes with a number of risks, one of which is the increased possibilities for fraud.
General Federal Protections for Whistleblowers
Any citizen has the power to sue individuals or companies for defrauding the government under the False Claims Act (FCA), also known as the Whistleblower Act, Qui Tam Statute or Lincoln Law. If you have actionable knowledge of fraudulent activity against the government, you might be entitled to bring a qui tam action, which means you are suing on behalf of the government.
As a whistleblower under the FCA, you may entitled to up to 30% of the amount the government recovers. You also have certain protections as a whistleblower. If you are fired, demoted, harassed, or otherwise experience discrimination because of your whistleblowing, you are entitled to what is termed “relief.” Relief can include reinstatement, compensation for litigation costs and fees, and double any back pay you are owed.
Also under this Act, you have the right to make a protected disclosure (which means providing the details of the illegal act or fraud you have knowledge of to certain specific individuals) anonymously, or you can request that your name not be revealed.
However, the following caveats apply:
- If you choose to report anonymously, it may not be possible for your allegations to be investigated, so the case may be dismissed. And, if your allegations are investigated, there is always a risk that someone may be able to figure out your identity from the content of the allegations.
- If you provide your name but ask that it not be revealed, there may be circumstances where someone could legally compel the disclosure of your identity.
Why Whistleblowers Are Essential to Eliminating Fraud Against the Government
Protections Specifically for Defense Contractor Whistleblowers
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA) was a bill written especially to protect whistleblowing employees of defense contractors. It specifically addresses the concerns of such employees, including provisions to help minimize retaliation and to provide relief to those employees who do suffer retaliation. If a whistleblower wins, the relief the person receives is compensatory damages that have no upper-limit monetary caps.
The NDAA covers, on a permanent basis, all employees of Department of Defense contractors, subcontractors, and grant recipients who become whistleblowers. The Act also covers, for a four-year period, any whistleblower involved in non-intelligence community contracts or grants. It’s possible that this coverage will be made permanent as well
Do you believe you have knowledge that could lead to a whistleblower suit? You would be protected as a whistleblower if you have information that demonstrates one of the following conditions:
- Violation of any law, rule, or regulation
- Misuse or waste of funds
- Gross mismanagement
- Abuse of authority
- A public health or safety danger that is both substantial and specific.
If you have insider knowledge about defense contract or any governmental fraud, you could be entitled to a significant cash reward. Whistleblowers are generally eligible to receive between 15 and 30 percent of any damages collected under the various whistleblower acts. If you have a valid case, an experienced qui tam attorney like the ones at the Louthian Law Firm can assess your case and help you file the necessary disclosure statement with the government. In some instances, the government will intervene (take part in your lawsuit). A qualified attorney can help you structure your claims in such a way that the government will be persuaded to intervene, possibly increasing the likelihood that you will recover reward money.