Another theft leaves VA data exposed

The Department of Veterans Affairs is expected to make a statement today on the theft of a computer from a VA contractor’s office, said a spokesman for Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), who revealed the theft in a statement late Aug. 4.

LoBiondo’s press officer, Jason Galanes, could not say where the theft had taken place. He deferred all questions to the VA.

Calls to the VA’s public affairs office were not immediately returned.

Galanes said LoBiondo became aware of the theft, the second potential compromise of VA personal data in less than four months, when the VA’s congressional liaison office informed him and his New Jersey colleague Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.) of it Aug. 4.

LoBiondo and Saxton issued a joint statement warning that “personal information of veterans living in the Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and South Jersey areas could be compromised.”

They said the theft occurred in the middle of last week but gave no further details. Law enforcement officials, including the FBI, are conducting an investigation to retrieve the stolen information, they said.

“We have to get a lid on this program,” Saxton said in the statement. “Frank and I represent a lot of veterans across South Jersey. The theft of their personal information is an invasion of privacy.”

“Saxton and I will closely follow the VA and law enforcement’s efforts to recover the stolen information while examining legislative options to enhance security protocols” at the VA, LoBiondo said.

LoBiondo and Saxton are co-sponsors of H.R. 5520, the Veterans’ Identity Protection Act, which would give veterans financial recourse if their personal information was mishandled by the VA.

Earlier today, committee Chairman Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) released a statement praising law enforcement officials for arresting two suspects in the May theft of a laptop computer from the home of a VA employee.

“The vulnerability is real and with the help of Congress, [the] VA must move forward with information security reform,” Buyer added.

A call to Buyer's office was not immediately returned.

David Tucker, staff spokesman for Democrats on the panel, said the party’s members were awaiting the VA's statement "so we would know the full details of what they release."

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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