Millions Of Veterans' ID Data Stolen

Millions Of Veterans’ ID Data Stolen
Computer Disks Were Taken From The Home Of A Senior Veterans Affairs Official

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2006

“This is no way to treat those who have worn the uniform of our country.”
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

(CBS/AP) Personal data, including Social Security numbers of 26.5 million U.S. veterans, was stolen from a Veterans Affairs employee this month after he took the information home without authorization, the department said Monday.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson said there was no evidence so far that the burglars who struck the employee’s home have used the personal data ? or even know they have it. The employee, a data analyst whom Nicholson would not identify, has been placed on leave pending a review.

The mid-level career employee carried home a work project that involved computer files containing the data, CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports.

“He wasn’t authorized to do that. In fact, that behavior was a violation of our policies,” Deputy Secretary Gordon Mansfield told CBS Radio News.

“We have a full-scale investigation,” said Nicholson, who said the FBI, local law enforcement and the VA inspector general were investigating. “I want to emphasize, there was no medical records of any veteran and no financial information of any veteran that’s been compromised.”

“We have decided that we must exercise an abundance of caution and make sure our veterans are aware of this incident,” he said in a conference call with reporters.

But investigators believe it’s likely the burglary was carried out by street thugs who may not know what they have or how to access the information, Orr reports. Sources say other break-ins have occurred in the same neighborhood, including a second burglary involving computer equipment just a few blocks away.

The theft of veterans’ names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth comes as the department has come under criticism for shoddy accounting practices and for falling short on the needs of veterans.

Last year, more than 260,000 veterans could not sign up for services because of cost-cutting. Audits also have shown the agency used misleading accounting methods and lacked documentation to prove its claimed savings.

Veterans advocates immediately expressed alarm.

“This was a very serious breach of security for American veterans and their families,” said Bob Wallace, executive director of Veterans for Foreign Wars. “We want the VA to show leadership, management and accountability for this breach.”

And investigators are still puzzled by the fact that the computer and data files appear to be the only significant things taken from the VA employee’s home, Orr reports.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who is a Vietnam veteran, decried the breach and said he would introduce legislation to require the VA to provide credit reports to the veterans affected by the theft.

“This is no way to treat those who have worn the uniform of our country,” Kerry said in a statement “Someone needs to be fired, the perpetrators need to be caught and the security system at the VA needs to be massively overhauled.”

A letter (.pdf) is being sent to those veterans affected.

On Monday, the VA said it was notifying members of Congress and the individual veterans about the burglary. It also set up a call center at 1-800-FED-INFO and Web site,, if veterans believe their information has been misused.

It also is stepping up its review of procedures for the use of personal data for many of its employees who telecommute as well as others who must sign disclosure forms showing they are aware of federal privacy laws and the consequences if they’re violated.

Nicholson declined to comment on the specifics of the incident, which involved a mid-level career employee who had taken the information home to suburban Maryland ? on disks, according to congressional sources who were briefed on the incident ? to work on a department project.

The residential community had been a target of a series of burglaries and the employee was victimized earlier this month, according to the FBI in Baltimore, which was investigating the incident.

The material represents personal data of all living veterans who served and have been discharged since 1976, according to the department. The information was included in the veterans’ discharge summary that goes into a government database.

Hi there,
just wanted to comment about the veterans syolen records, my husban is a Vet, this is an unforgivable act taking home those files, i think the man should do serious jail time, and he probably sold the info to someone and then filed a theft report, but the sad truth is that everyone’s personal info. soc. sec. numbers and all that only takes 5 minutes to get on the pooter, or by hundreds of other means, today no one is safe from identity theft, you just have to hope your name dont run accross the wrong hands, my husband and i were dooped for over 200 thousand dollars and more are still coming in, we were lucky, they found out who it was, but our credit score is in bad shape, our attorney has to get it all taken off our report, but that can take years, but anyway, the huge panic about the vetrans information being out there is non-excusable, and they need to put some kind of alert if anything is removed from the computors files. and the man needs to pay big time, but he will probably only get fired and sent on his way. just my thoughts.

winddancer -

I come from a long line of vets. I am a lifetime member of the DAV. What happened was totally uncalled for.

With all this technology it’s very scary knowing what can happen to an innocent victim.

Did you know - your telephone company (and this is something I found out over 25 years ago - before all this computer crap!!) has a certain code they can punch into their system and it will pull up all your personal info?? Even things about you no one should know. Tell me big brother isn’t watching and has been for so long it’s not funny.

My personal feeling on all this identity theft is - once it is reported and the date of it being reported - the innocent victim should not be penalized in any way at all for any transactions after that date. It’s sad that so much damage can be done before the victim even finds out. And I am dead set against us having to use our SS numbers as ID numbers for medicare, medicaid, insurance policies, etc.

The idiot that supposedly “lost” the computer due to a thief taking it - I would really like to know if he got paid for that information! Then rumor is that teenagers bought it off him and supposedly wiped the hard drive clean without knowing what they were erasing. Sorry - I don’t believe that.

Laptops are being stolen everyday from businesses and individuals. It’s very scary to think of what was on that computer.

I closed my checking account and moved into another bank, I refuse to do any banking or account balance verification on line - I can call the bank and push a few phone buttons to get the information I need. When I re-order by checks from the bank I will no longer have my first name on the checks - just my first and middle initials with my last name. This way if anyone wants to steal my checks - they will not have my name. My bank will be informed that my signature on my checks must be first name, middle initial and last name.

I pay my bills by mail - absolutely NO ONE will ever do a direct payment from my account. It is worth the stamp knowing that if there is a dishonest person working in a supermarket customer service counter (they are not bonded like the bank employees are!) they will not have my account number or bank numbers.

Also - I no longer put complete account numbers on my checks when paying my bills - the last 4 to 6 digits of the account number are all they get (depending on the account number) and for anything that is very important (like making a large lump-sum payment on my mortgage to bring it down some) I call the bank and ask for the name of the person I can send it to instead of their lock box where everything gets posted the same - this way I will know who posted the payment and if there is a problem I can go back to them. Lock boxes are fine - but how do you know who is posting your remittance??

And of course - I have 2 shredders!

My one friend will not even carry her license with her anymore (she had her purse stolen twice throughout the years). She goes to Kinko’s and makes copies of her license and carries a copy with her instead of her license. she says that by doing it that way - it is not a “real” license and cannot be used as ID by anyone. ??? I’m not quite that bad – yet!!

Right now I am dealing with PAYPAL - and it is not paypal anyway - someone is trying to phish me - and they are claiming to take close to $500 out of my account for a camera for some women in Louisiana. Pay pal said it is not them - and not to respond to them because they will only claim to help me after they get the infor they want. But I have turned them in to the government through - they can deal with it.

Last month it was a phone for $485 they were trying to get money from me for a guy in Louisiana - and of course I looked up both of these people and I got their phone numbers and sent that in with my complaint as well. No money has been taken out of my account but I do watch it all the time. And the sad part is - I used paypal 3 times for very small purchases and that account was closed.

I am sorry to hear that you are going through all that crap! And I hope that your attorney can clear it all up for you sooner.

We have no privacy anymore - our SS number is used for so much - doctors, insurance, medical, prescriptions, banking, utilities, etc. None of us are safe!


by the way - my mom is collecting widow’s pension and the checks come with my dad’s SS number on them - so it’s more than just the vets being effected - it’s their families too!

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