VA cancels credit monitoring offer

Jim Nicholson, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, has decided not to offer free credit-monitoring services to veterans whose personal data could have been compromised when a laptop computer and hard drive was stolen from a VA employee’s home in May.

Police recovered the items last month, and FBI forensic experts examined them.

"Given the FBI's high degree of confidence that the information recently recovered was not accessed or compromised, VA believes that individual credit monitoring will no longer be necessary," the department said in a statement posted on its Web site.

Nicholson "remains unwavering in his resolve to make VA the leader in protecting personal information, training and educating our employees in best practices, and establishing a culture that always puts the safekeeping of veterans’ personal information first," the statement reads.

Nicholson is scheduled to appear before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee July 20 to respond to a report by the VA’s inspector general on the incident. The IG’s office found that several high-ranking department officials were lax in their response to the theft and called for reforming the agency's information technology structure.

Protecting veterans' private information remains a priority for the VA, according to the Web site statement. "Out of an abundance of caution and to further safeguard individuals' information, VA will work swiftly to solicit bids from companies that provide data-breach analysis,” the statement reads. “Data-breach analysis looks across multiple industries to detect patterns of misuse related to a specific data loss. While it is considered highly unlikely by the FBI and law enforcement that this data was accessed, data-breach analysis will provide additional assurances."

The VA has the funds in its budget to pay for the analysis, and officials said the effort will not affect the quality of health care and other services veterans receive.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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