Congress

Senate bill would require VA to stop using SSNs

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)

As promised earlier this year, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is pushing legislation to require VA to stop using Social Security numbers as identifiers.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) has introduced legislation that would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to stop using veterans' Social Security numbers as identifiers in its information systems.

The Veterans' Identity Theft Protection Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), was drafted in response to the leak of hundreds of veterans' Social Security numbers in Wisconsin.

"Our veterans should never be put at risk of identity theft with information that they have entrusted to the VA," Baldwin said in a statement.

The bill would apply to veterans who submit new benefit claims within two years of its enactment, and it would apply to all veterans within five years.

Such a shift is no small task. Since the Vietnam War, the VA has required veterans to provide their Social Security numbers as a way to identify them, and the department estimated in 2014 that there are 22 million veterans nationwide.

"As you can imagine, a shift like this would be a huge undertaking, so to hear at least encouraging signs from the secretary is helpful," Baldwin told FCW in March.

The bill does permit an exception if a veteran's Social Security number is required to access or transfer information from outside the VA's purview.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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