Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 8 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 4/27/20

Ukraine Whistleblower and Psychiatric Fitness for Duty Exams

Author 58344
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Don Soeken
Become a Fan
  (1 fan)

Pick up a newspaper or flip on the evening news, and the odds are high that you'll soon find yourself caught up in the breathless story about the identity of the "Ukraine whistleblower" who filed a complaint with the U.S. Intelligence Inspector General alleging inappropriate behavior by the president, leading to today's impeachment inquiry. So far, the person's name is a closely guarded secret. For this mental health worker, a veteran whistleblower whose story was told a few years back in the NewYorkTimes and Parade Magazine, the Ukraine controversy serves as a painful but also very hopeful reminder that "speaking the truth to power" is often a crucial step in defending our liberties and protecting the rule of law.

Back in the late 1970s, I was a youthful and idealistic Ph.D. social worker for the U.S. Public Health Service in Washington, D.C. One of my duties was to help treat and evaluate federal workers who were struggling with mental problems such as depression and PTSD. Among my patients, I sometimes treated federal employees who told me they had experienced conflicts with their bosses and had then been ordered to undergo forced psychiatric fitness-for-duty exams that were conducted by government and private psychiatrists. On other occasions, I discovered that federal employees who'd been required to take the fitness exams were actually whistleblowers. After reporting waste, fraud or abuse in their government departments, they'd been punished via the exams for speaking out against these illegal activities. In one especially egregious case, a secretary who'd blown the whistle on rampant overtime-padding at the Department of Transportation was required to take a forced exam conducted by an in-house psychiatrist. Without even interviewing the secretary, the psychiatrist had diagnosed her as a "paranoid schizophrenic"a medical diagnosis that caused her to lose her job and go on disability retirement with a miserly $300-a-month benefit. After several months of watching how federal agency heads were using these forced exams to punish whistleblowers, I decided that I could not remain silent. For more than a year, I blew the whistle onthese illegal exams,while giving numerous interviews to newspaper reporters.

As a result, I wound up sitting in front of a congressional committee led by then Maryland Democratic Congresswoman Gladys Noon Spellman, who chaired the PostOffice andCivil ServiceCommittee on Capitol Hill. On Feb. 28, 1978, I answered the committee's questions about the forced fitness exams in careful detail. What followed was a long and bitter national debate about their legality. But the struggle paid off in the early 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan finally signed the bill that made the forced exams illegal and thus ended the practice for keeps. These days, as I read the stories about the Ukraine whistleblower, I'm reminded all over again of how important it is to defend and support our truth-tellers, who often lose their careers as a result of reporting wrongdoing.

In order to assist these valiant Americans, I established the Whistleblower Support Fund (whistleblowing.us), and I frequently try to help them by providing referrals, counseling and expert witness testimony they need to survive the ordeal of "going public" with their reports of wrongdoing in public life. If we are to continue to enjoy the liberties we cherish as a nation, we must continue to avoid the fatal mistake of "killing the messenger" while defending the brave whistleblowers who risk everything to keep us all safe from tyranny.

DonaldR. Soeken (donsoeken@gmail .com)isthe U.S. Public Health Service social worker who blew the whistle on forced fitness-for-duty psychiatric examinations of federal workers and helped to eliminate these illegal exams by testifying before the U.S. Congress. Hearing serves as painful, hopeful reminder to veteran whistleblower By Donald R. Soeken

 

Rate It | View Ratings

Don Soeken Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

International Whistleblower Archive Don Soeken, LCSW-C, Ph.D. Founder and President, Whistleblower Support Fund Captain, US Public Health Service (retired) Theology degree, Valparaiso University; MSW, Wayne State University; Ph.D., Human (more...)
 

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

STAY IN THE KNOW
If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
Name
Email
   (Opens new browser window)
 

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Whistleblowing on Wall Street and UBS Bank

Ukraine Whistleblower and Psychiatric Fitness for Duty Exams

To View Comments or Join the Conversation: