Veterans Affairs

VA says employment portal for veterans is secure

Shutterstock image: email phishing.

The Veterans Employment Center is designed to give civilian employers access to a pool of veterans and transitioning workers in one online location.

Curtis Coy, deputy undersecretary for economic opportunity at the Veterans Benefits Administration, told a House panel on Nov. 3 that the system is one of the first projects developed with a special agile development team whose members come from the high-tech industry.

But the site has also drawn the attention of cyber criminals. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee's Economic Opportunity Subcommittee, cited recent reports of an email scam targeting VEC portal users.

In response, Coy said the Department of Veterans Affairs had discovered that some users were receiving phishing messages that said their names had been found on the portal and they were eligible for a $1,000 deal on a computer. The scammers told the users they could deposit a check sent to them to buy a computer but to keep the purchase under $1,000 and send the remaining funds back to the scammer in a money order. Similar scams have targeted users of commercial sites, Coy said.

VA has notified VEC users of the scam through a marketing campaign warning of offers "that are too good to be true," Coy said.

On the cybersecurity side, he said VA has been closely monitoring server facilities owned by third-party provider, and no breaches or intrusions have been detected. Coy also said the VEC site holds no personally identifiable information; such information is maintained on a separate system, VA's eBenefits.

"We're pretty confident" that no intrusions or data theft occurred in the VEC phishing incidents, he added.

Coy said the group of 20 people recruited from industry built the portal because they wanted to make a difference in veterans' lives. Changes can be made to the site "literally on the spot," he added. He said one of employers' and users' biggest complaints concerns the tool that translates military skill terms into commercial language that can be used on a veteran's resume or profile, making it easier to match them with employers, Coy said.

Davy Leghorn, assistant director of the American Legion's Veterans Employment and Education Division, praised the site as useful and a great improvement but said some tweaks would make it even better. He noted in his testimony that the portal has not become a go-to resource for employers because of quirks like the skills translator.

Coy said VA's development operations team plans to release a new skills translator by Veterans Day (Nov. 11).

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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