The breakfast banquet applauding federal whistleblowers was a small but meaningful demonstration of the gratitude that regularly should be shown to employees who are too often castigated instead of celebrated for disclosing wrongdoing.

About 150 people gathered over scrambled eggs, chicken-apple sausage and roasted tomatoes in the Dolley Madison room of the Loews Madison Hotel last week as the Office of Special Counsel named three Department of Veterans Affairs physicians Public Servant of the Year.

It was an upbeat event that praised protectors of the government’s mission, with little mention of the bad actors who tried to sabotage the doctors who did their duty. Positive reinforcement encouraging whistleblowers should be practiced at every agency. But to stop them from facing reprisals, negative reinforcement — meaning disciplinary action — should be taken toward those who retaliate against whistleblowers.

Katherine Mitchell of Phoenix and Phyllis Hollenbeck and Charles Sherwood, both of Jackson, Miss., were honored at the ceremony.

The special counsel and the House Veterans Affairs Committee “did need to protect me,” Hollenbeck told the gathering, “because I like to politely call what I’m on . . . the feces roster of those in charge in Jackson.”

While acknowledging the support of some colleagues during an interview, she added: “As soon as you start to speak up internally, even before you become a whistleblower, you face a lot of reprisals from the get-go.”

Read more in the Federal Diary in Monday’s Washington Post and online at: http://wapo.st/1ythQ1q