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26 million veterans harmed by VA carelessness

May 29, 2006

After soldiers serve our country at the risk of their lives, setting high the limits of human courage and devotion, our Veterans Administration does what, in reward?

Thief Steals 26.5 Million Veterans’ Identities… an information technology worker at the VA Admnistration took a laptop home, containing the personal records of 26 million discharged veterans.  This information includes Social Security numbers and dates of birth, just what’s needed for identity theft.  It’s really, really bad, especially that someone broke into the guy’s house and stole the laptop…

It’s especially egregious that the VA kept it a secret for 19 days afterward, since the best defense against identity theft is if the potential victim takes action to monitor their accounts and put a fraud watch on their credit activity. 

I have written before about this kind of carelessness and what kind of havoc it can wreck on the lives of people who entrust companies with it.  There are a few simple rules – the most important being, datasets like that should never be on a laptop in the first place (it wasn’t even encrypted!).  If it absolutely must be accessed from offsite, a SSL+VPN is called for.  And if, on review, there is NO OTHER WAY to proceed than by carrying the dataset on a portable device, strong encryption is called for. 

This was not exactly a fluke – the worker had been doing the same thing for years, apparently with the knowledge of his superiors (who are now backpedaling furiously).  The Veterans Administrations has also received warnings about this very problem, and apparently ignored them.

What does it take for institutions to at least act as if they care?  Practically every institutional disaster in history has followed some variation of “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine” and even punishing those who say otherwise.

How about; “Pretend this is YOUR data and you could have your financial identity stolen”.  What should happen to the guy who took home the laptop?  His supervisor?  The group that wrote the VA’s data security regulations? 

And to the veterans, especially the 26 million whose data was stolen, thank you.  You deserve so much better than what you get, seemingly every time you turn around.

Photo of 3 American flags hanging from giant cranes on I-74 between Bloomington and Urbana, Illinois, this afternoon.

Categories: Geeky, Security
  1. May 30, 2006 at 18:04 | #1

    There was just no excuse for this. I am calling for some heads on this one and I should hope that the heads roll.

  2. June 2, 2006 at 10:23 | #2

    I bet if the congressional data base with their social security numbers was stolen people would be executed on the steps of congress.

  3. June 2, 2006 at 11:15 | #3

    A lot of congressmen are also veterans so hopefully this will get their attention.  Of course they think rules apply to them differently from their loyal subjects.

  4. June 10, 2007 at 22:45 | #4

    I am interested in revealing VA injuries to Veterans.

  5. David Marshall
    September 16, 2009 at 09:18 | #5

    Your loved ones harmed?
    The Chief Judge of Congress’s Court of Veterans Appeals stated that the, “Constitution, Statutes and Regulations” are “policy freely ignored” by both “The Veterans Health Administration” and the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) as recorded below, i.e., the “STATE OF COURT” transcript PARAGRAPH 9 with the U.S. CODE, TITLE 38, SECTIONS (§) 511 and § 7252. Decisions of the Secretary; finality. This is a no teeth Congressional LEGISLATIVE, not an independent from Congress Judicial Branch Court. It is now 15 years later without the Chief Judge’s advised Congressional oversight and accountability. The DVA Health Care laymen, “initial adjudicators” still are not held responsible for their “freely ignored” and medically ignorant “Schedule of Ratings for Disabilities” decisions, e.g., this veterans to date “initial adjudicators” ignored “MPerR PERMANENT” “SURGEON HQ ARRC JUN 25 ‘58 MEDICALLY DISQUALIFIED FOR MILITARY SERVICE”!
    Please hold your Congressional Representatives accountable.

    The complete 16 paragraph “STATE OF COURT” transcript is available on request. Previously at, and now missing from the Chief Judges and state_of_court sites: http://www.goodnet.com/~heads/nebeker and http://www.firebase.net/state_of_court_brief.htm
    STATE OF COURT

    CHIEF JUDGE FRANK Q. NEBEKER

    STATE OF THE COURT

    FOR PRESENTATION TO THE

    UNITED STATES COURT OF VETERANS APPEALS

    THIRD JUDICIAL CONFERENCE

    OCTOBER 17-18, 1994

    {as it appears in Veterans Appeals Reporter}

    ——————————PARAGRAPH 9 of 16 in TRANSCRIPT.——————————————-
    I believe my message is clear. There is, I suggest, no system with judicial review which has within it a component part free to function in its own way, in its own time and with one message to those it disappoints—take an appeal. That is, I am afraid, what we have today in many of the Department’s Agencies of Original Jurisdiction—that is AOJs—around the country. Neither the Court, through the Board, the Board, nor the General Counsel has direct and meaningful control over the Agencies of Original Jurisdiction. Indeed, it is also clear that the VHA—the Veterans Health Administration—ignores specific directives to provide medical opinions as directed. And this is resulting in unconscionable delays. Let us examine judicial review. Remember, the Court and the Board do not make policy, the Secretary and Congress do. The Court simply identifies error made below by a failure to adhere, in individual cases, to the Constitution, statutes, and regulations which themselves reflect policy—policy freely ignored by many initial adjudicators whose attitude is, “I haven’t been told by my boss to change. If you don’t like it—appeal it.” (Emphasis added)

    AND THE CONGRESS’S “policy freely ignored” UNITED STATES CODE HEALTH CARE GIFTS TO VETERANS:

    1. UNITED STATES CODE, TITLE 38 > PART I > CHAPTER 5 > SUBCHAPTER I >
    § 511. Decisions of the Secretary; finality

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/usc…11——000-.html

    “(a) The Secretary shall decide all questions of law and fact necessary to a decision by the Secretary under a law that affects the provision of benefits by the Secretary to veterans or the dependents or survivors of veterans. Subject to subsection (b), THE DECISION OF THE SECRETARY AS TO ANY SUCH QUESTION SHALL BE FINAL AND CONCLUSIVE AND MAY NOT BE REVIEWED BY ANY OTHER OFFICIAL OR BY ANY COURT, whether by an action in the nature of mandamus or otherwise.” (Emphasis added)

    THEREFORE, NO COURT REVIEW OF THE MEDICALLY UNTRAINED laymen “initial adjudicators” “schedule of ratings for disabilities” decisions as proven by:

    2. UNITED STATES CODE, TITLE 38 PART V > CHAPTER 72 > SUBCHAPTER I >
    § 7252. Jurisdiction; finality of decisions
    “(b) Review in the Court shall be on the record of proceedings before the Secretary and the Board. The extent of the review shall be limited to the scope provided in section 7261 of this title. THE COURT MAY NOT REVIEW THE SCHEDULE OF RATINGS FOR DISABILITIES adopted under section 1155 of this title or any action of the Secretary in adopting or revising that schedule.” (Emphasis added.)

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