Janet's Conner

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Friday, June 09, 2006

STATEMENT FROM REP. JOHN T. SALAZAR (D-CO) RE: VA THEFT IDENTITY AND HIS LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT



SALAZAR LEADS CONGRESS IN PUSHING PRESIDENT FOR FUNDING AND FULL DISCLOSURE ON IDENTITY THEFT

For Immediate Release
June 7, 2006

Washington, DC.---With each day bringing new disclosures on the severity of the Veterans' Administration's data breach, Congressman John Salazar (CO-3), the newest Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, today gathered the support of nearly 150 Members in calling on the President to provide emergency funding to aid the serive members impacted by data theft.

"This Administration continues to fail our veterans and military families," said Salazar. "The last month has been an embarrassing display of the VA consistently failing to provide timely information about the severity of the data theft. The delays and misinformation hurts veterans and military families at a time when we should be taking aggressive steps to protect their identities and financial standing."

Continued Salazar: "The President needs to make clear that such bungled bureacracy will not be tolerated. A simple apology is not nearly enough to make up for the cover up and careless handing of security. The President needs to take real steps and provide immediate aid to the affected servicemembers."

Said the Members in the letter: "The federal government has a duty to ensure that the financial health of our nation's veterans and military families is not harmed as a result of this most unfortunate event. Any credit reporting assistance provided must not come from previously appropriated or budgeted dollars for the Department of Veterans' Affairs. It is not fair, nor is it right, to risk access to services within the VA because of the theft of personal data."


The complete text of the letter to the President followes:

June 7, 2006

President George W. Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500


Dear Mr. President:

We cannot begin to express our concern with regard to the revelation on Monday, May 22nd of the theft of personal information of 26.5 million veterans from the home of a career employee of the Department of Veterans' Affairs. Just yesterday, we were informed that all active duty military, National Guard and Reserve members---about 2.2 million total---may also be at risk of identity theft. While this Congress looks forward to working with your administration to find solutions to the systemic problems that led to this situation, we are writing for a more immediate need.

You are undoubtedly aware that a majority of the information compromised contained names, Social Security Numbers and dates of birth of these veterans and service members. This information is the principal data identity thieves require to commit a crime against an individual's financial standing.

With that in mind, Mr. President, we urge you to immediately request emergency funding that would, starting this year, aid those who have been impacted by this data theft. Specifically, we urge you to provide for free credit monitoring for all veterans and military personnel who are at risk of becoming victims of identity theft. In addition, we call on you to provide funding for one additional free credit report per year to each individual affected. Legislation has been introduced in both the House and the Senate that would authorize this spending.

The federal government has a duty to ensure that the financial health of our nation's veterans and military families is not harmed as a result of this most unfortunate event. Any credit reporting assistance provided must not come form previously appropriated or budgeted dollars for the Department of Veterans' Affairs. It is not fair, nor is it right, to risk access to services within the VA because of the theft of personal data.

Sincerely,
Congressman John Salazar (CO-3)
Congressman Lane Evans (D-IL), Ranking Member, Vetrans Affairs House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Congressman Jim Clyburn, Chair, Democratic Caucus & 140 other Members of Congress

VVA, VETERANS' COALITION FILE CLASS ACTION SUIT RE: SAFEGUARDS TO VAs FILES

VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA, VETERANS' COALITION FILE CLASS ACTION SUIT SEEKING REDRESS, SAFEGUARDS TO VAs FILES ON 26.5 MILLION VETERANS

VVA PRESS RELEASE
JUNE 6, 2006
CONTACT: Mokie Porter


(Washington, D.C.)---Vietnam Veterans of America has joined with four other national organizations and several individual veterans in filing a class-action lawsuit seeking judicial oversight and protection of the VA computer files with personal information about 26.5 million veterans.

"It is appalling to all veterans that their personal information---information that is supposed to be held in confidence---is potentially in the hands of individuals who can wreak indentity-theft havoc," said John Rowan, National President of VVA and a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

"VA Secretary Nicholson has said he 'is mad as hell' over this incident and the breakdown in command and control of his department, and we believe him. However, he has yet to answer some critical questions: What was an employee of the VA doing with the names, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth of all these veterans, the vast majority of whom have never availed themselves of VA services? Why is the VA collecting this information in the first place?"

VVA is joined by four other national organizations and individual veterans in the lawsuit, which was filed in federal district court today by attorney Douglas Rosinski of the law firm Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. They are the National Gulf War Resource Center, Radiated Veterans of America, Citizen Soldier, and Veterans for Peace.

"Saying, 'We're sorry' is hardly comforting to veterans and their families," Rowan said. "The VA has been criticized for years about lax information security and that includes criticism from the VA's own Inspector General. The VA still hasn't properly secured all the personal information under its control. We've just seen the largest known unauthorized disclosure of Social Security numbers in history. We hope this lawsuit will help Secretary Nicholson correct the known vulnerabilities in how the VA protects private information. If the VA can't solve the problem, maybe the courts can help. Since all previous attempts at protecting privacy of individuals veterans by heads of the VA have failed, perhaps the weight of the judiciary can make the difference. This lawsuit seeks to insure that no harm will come to veterans as a result of this theft, and that such an incident can never occur again."

The veterans' complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks:

* A declaratory judgement that the VA's loss of these records violated and continues to violate both the Privacy and Administrative Procedure Acts.

* A court order that the VA disclose the exact nature of its compromised records system and to individually inform each veteran of every record it maintains on him/her.

* An injunction preventing the VA from altering any data storage system and prohibiting any further use of these data until a court-appointed panel of experts determines how best to implement safeguards to prevent any further breaches.

* A judgement awarding $1,000 to each veteran who can show that he/she has been harmed by the VA's violation of the Privacy Act.

STATEMENT FROM REP. LANE EVANS (D-IL) RE: VA DATA THEFT

STATEMENT OF REP. LANE EVANS (D-IL), ON DISCLOSURE THAT 2.2 MILLION ACTIVE DUTY/RESERVE PERSONNEL ARE AFFECTED BY VA DATA THEFT

A solemn trust between veterans, current servicemembers and their government has been broken by the revelation that the recent VA data breach has compromised nearly 26.5 million citizens who have worn the uniform in defense of this country, including 2.2 million active duty and reserve personnel.

The magnitude of this data breach is simply breathtaking and overwhelming. The VA cannot yet tell us the full extent of this sensitive personal data that has been compromised, or the number of veterans and servicemembers that are affected by the VA's negligence.

Instead of continuing to eke out the information, drip by drip, on an almost daily basis, adding to the list of those whose personal information is at risk, the VA must get to the bottom of this now, fix the problem, put forth long-term solutions and put veterans' minds at ease. That, of course, will take action by Congress as well, which is addressing the problem, but shockingly, this White House has been silent, failing to offer a single legislative fix over the course of these revelations to protect veterans.

The Administration has dropped the ball and put a significant portion of our population at risk for identity theft and the loss of their privacy. And it did so in the face of at least five years of warnings, precise warnings that it was putting veterans at risk.

I have called on GAO to launch an independent investigation, concurrent to those being conducted by the VA Inspector General and federal law enforcement. We must fix broken processes and a failed management culture. We must strive to make veterans whole, ease their anxieties and build back a trust with veterans and service men and women that has been violated.