New House VA committee chairman laments latest laptop loss

VA data missing again

Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), the new chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, sounded very much like his predecessor, Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), when he expressed grave concern over the latest loss of a Department of Veterans Affairs laptop computer hard drive, potentially containing personal information on an unknown number of veterans.

The hard drive was reported missing last week from a VA medical facility in Birmingham, Ala. VA officials said they believe the data on the hard drive was protected.

“I am concerned about this report,” said VA Secretary Jim Nicholson. He added that the department’s Office of the Inspector General and the FBI are investigating the incident. The VA’s Office of Information and Technology is conducting a separate review.

“We intend to get to the bottom of this, and we will take aggressive steps to protect and assist anyone whose information may have been involved,” Nicholson said.

Filner said he is concerned that even one government-owned portable storage device at the VA is still not fully encrypted or protected following the May 2006 theft of a VA employee’s computer and external hard drive that compromised the personal information of 26.5 million veterans.

“There is no excuse for storing sensitive personal information about our veterans on portable government equipment that is not secure,” Filner said in a statement. “This type of problem happened last May and we were very lucky to recover that hard drive. We are not always going to be that fortunate.”

Filner said he will work with VA officials to address this type of problem and noted that last year the committee held a series of hearings that examined the May theft and passed legislation to address that issue at the department.

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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