Imagine that you work somewhere within the VA or the DOD. You notice that, say, your boss is continuously contracting out landscaping duties to his wife’s landscaping company, though the landscaping never seems to get done. Hundreds of thousands of VA dollars are getting siphoned into this man’s family bank account, and no one is the wiser — except for you.

Time to “blow the whistle.” Time to hold this guy accountable for contributing to the systemic issues within the VA. Seems simple enough — surely if you report him to the authorities, it will all get taken care of.

But where do you start? You get yourself a lawyer and head up to the upper echelons of the VA, just to have them reassign you to some nameless office, and they may even find reasons to reprimand and discredit you. The weeks turn to months, which turn to years before anything actually happens. The entire time, you’re alone, both profoundly bored and stressed, while navigating unknown legal waters and trying to take on an entire bureaucracy.

This is an all too familiar story among whistleblowers throughout the VA. Not every case immediately results in the whistleblower outing VA employees for stealing millions of dollars; it often ends careers, causes anxiety and depression, and even leads to substance abuse in some cases.