The Checkout

Records of 26.5 Million Veterans Stolen

In what may be the largest security breach of personal data, the electronic records of 26.5 million U.S. veterans were stolen earlier this month from the home of a Department of Veterans Affairs employee.

A file, containing the names, birthdates and Social Security numbers of living servicemen discharged since 1975 and some of their spouses were taken from the home of a career civil servant who had taken the data home with him. No financial or medical records were included in the data.

Jim Nicholson, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs said the analyst was not authorized to take the data home. Nicholson said agency believed this was a random burglary, not designed to obtain information for identity theft.

The VA plans to send letters to every veteran notifying them of the theft; he urged all veterans to monitor their credit card and bank accounts. And for more information, the VA has set up a Web site to address the situation.

For more, read the latest by my colleague Christopher Lee.

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"Servicemen"? Was this a gender-specific database? Because the alternative would be that there isn't a single servicewoman living who was discharged since 1975. Nope, that can't be right, because that's when I got out of the WACs, and I'm still here.

Posted by: Leslie Hawkins | May 22, 2006 4:39 PM

I would hope that this information would be encrypted making it hard for anyone to use.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 22, 2006 5:09 PM

Perhaps as punishment, the "Civil Servant" that took the information should have their personal information placed on the web for the world to see and use.

Posted by: ABH | May 22, 2006 5:11 PM

Perhaps this civil servant was working for a terrorist organization. I believe based on this article that he let someone know he would have the records home on a certiain day, while himself being absent, so the records could be easily taken. He compromised the names and locations of soldiers to the enemy (domestic or foregin). I think he should be charged with high treason.

Posted by: Michael | May 22, 2006 5:38 PM

Expect more of the same in the years ahead.

It's proven time and again that the weakest links in any security plan are the people involved with the system.

Until we are all with a national smart card ID or the equivalent, the effects of these ID crimes will remain essentially unmitigated and upon the citizens shoulders to bear.

Posted by: mark aoki | May 22, 2006 6:13 PM

I work for the government. If the taxpayers would not be so passive they might be able to change things. As it is, government jobs are nothing but welfare for the idiots that populate this area. I am keeping a list of the idiots that I work with and am going to release it as soon as I feel safe. For now I am just enjoying my GS14 nonsupervisory position and consider it my due.

Posted by: Jack | May 22, 2006 6:20 PM

National ID card? Yikes!!!!

We can't even secure the VA list. Lets make a bigger list with everybody in it.

Posted by: checkoutReader | May 22, 2006 6:39 PM

The usage of the masculine noun by a female author reinforces that fact that the word "servicemen" is gender neutral by common usage, as are several others like "postman," "chairman," and "foreman." Maybe a comment that related to the content of the article would have been more appropriate ...

Posted by: Boyd Brown | May 22, 2006 11:00 PM

I don't understand how there could be 26.5 million servicemen after 1975. You can include all of their wives, children, siblings, parents, aunts, and uncles, and you won't reach 26.5 million. Somebody should be more careful with numbers.

Posted by: James Alter | May 23, 2006 12:31 AM

I'm not understanding why this article is about the theft from an employee, not from a now ex-employee. I'd like to know the consequences that this imbicile faces, especially now that my identity is at stake. I served with all my heart, and it has taken me years to get to the place that I am now. All to be ptoentially ruined by someone's disregard for informatikon security? I don't think so. We Veterans deserve much more than this.

Posted by: Jim B. | May 23, 2006 7:30 AM

What I can't understand is why this kind of sensitive information was at the private residence of a low-level federal employee in the first place. If a higher priority was placed on securing sensitive personal information in the first place, this would never have happened.

Posted by: Carolyn | May 23, 2006 8:18 AM

This whole story sounds fishy to me. The laptop this information was on, an external drive and "some coins" were the ONLY things that were stolen - on a weekday during the day? I find this just plain odd in addition to of course being infuriating - as no matter how it happened, the bottom line is that the VA obviously has little regard for personnel records.

Posted by: lily | May 23, 2006 10:06 AM

How very convenient that his house is robbed the very day he takes home the computer disk. I bet he blabbed to people that he had access to all sorts of information, and when someone doubted him, he said that he would take home the computer disk and show it around. And how very convenient that he hasn't been fired. It looks like a lot of people are in on this.

Posted by: Me | May 23, 2006 12:22 PM

My husband and I, along with my brother & his wife, and various friends and relatives are on the list. I think this crime or incident should give pause to anyone in the private sector or government who thinks that health records should all be computerized for easier sharing of information.

And, I'm greatly disappointed that the government has now placed the onus on veterans themselves to keep watch over any crimes that may occur in the future due criminals sharing our personal information, particularly social security numbers.

Someone should be fired and going to jail over this one. And, not just the low-level analyst.

Posted by: Kate | May 23, 2006 5:53 PM

It's not bad enough that I have back, shoulder, elbow problems and damaged hearing from Infantry combat service in Iraq that they are doing absolutely nothing about.

Now my credit score that I have worked hard to build up and financial future are also put at risk by the VA.

Sounds like a scandal to me this VA employee should go to prison.

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