The U.S. Office of Special Counsel said Tuesday that whistleblowers across the federal government are still facing unlawful retaliation in the Obama administration, and that the agency is still working to stop these illegal practices.

"Courageous employees deserve our appreciation but all too often they face harassment, demotion or firing," the OSC said in a joint statement with the Council of the Inspectors General. "Such retaliation is unlawful, and we are working together to make sure that it is stopped and that those who retaliate are held accountable."

The OSC is an independent agency with the authority to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing in the government. One of its main functions is to protect federal workers against illegal practices, "especially reprisal for whistleblowing."

One agency that's had problems with whistleblower retaliation is the Department of Veterans Affairs, where employees have reported for years that their efforts to fix the agency have been met with punishment and demotions.

In January, a House committee started an investigation into whether the VA was spying on whistleblowers by diverting their emails to a central office in Washington.

But the OSC said the VA has only benefited from employees blowing the whistle on corrupt, negligent or wasteful behavior.

"At the Department of Veterans Affairs, whistleblowers alerted the country to the widespread manipulation of scheduling data that masked true wait times for veterans seeking healthcare," it said. It also noted cost savings at the Department of Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Agency thanks to whistleblowers.

The OSC released the joint statement on Tuesday, which is National Whistleblower Appreciation Day.

"The good news is that, with recognition through events like National Whistleblower Appreciation Day, we continue to advance a culture within the federal government that thanks whistleblowers for their service rather than retaliates against them," the statement said.