U.S. Veterans' Data Files Stolen

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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced Monday, May 22, 2006, that a computer disk containing electronic data files with the names and birth dates of "about 26.5 million veterans and some of their spouses, along with 19.6 million Social Security numbers" [1] had been "stolen from the residence of a Department of Veterans Affairs employee who had taken the data home without authorization." [2]

Speaking before Congress on May 24, 2006, "VA Inspector General George Opfer detailed a series of missteps leading to one of the nation's largest information security breaches. He noted that his office only became aware of the May 3 [2006] burglary through office gossip." Congress also learned that the "Veterans Affairs data analyst who lost the personal data ... improperly took the information home for three years before the data was stolen." [3]

VA Secretary R. James "Jim" Nicholson told the "House Veterans' Affairs Committee and a joint hearing of the Senate veterans and homeland-security committees" that the theft included the records of veterans "who have been discharged since 1975, plus veterans receiving VA disability compensation" and "some numerical disability ratings and diagnostic codes that identify their disability." "'Not included,'" Nicholson said, "were any VA electronic health records or 'explicit financial information.'" [4]

"VA officials told the committees that there was no evidence of a focused effort to steal data on veterans. A number of CDs containing sensitive VA data were left in the house after the burglary, VA Inspector General George Opfer testified. ... Nicholson said the employee whose home was burglarized has been placed on administrative leave." [5]

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