A Department of Veterans Affairs employee blamed for losing the personal data of up to 26.5 million veterans had permission to access the information on a laptop from home, the AP/Washington Post reports. Lawmakers say they want to find out if the employee is being unfairly blamed for the theft (Yen, AP/Washington Post, 6/29).
The VA on May 22 announced that as many as 26.5 million veterans are at risk of identity theft as a result of the theft of the VA employee's laptop. The laptop did not include health records but did include disability ratings, names, Social Security numbers and birthdates (iHealthBeat, 6/28).
An internal document shows that the VA employee had approval as early as September 2002 to use special software at home to work with large amounts of data. Another document from February 2002 allows the employee to access veterans' Social Security numbers. A third document from 2002 gave the employee permission to take a laptop for work outside the VA building, the AP/Post reports.
"The gross negligence in this case are the people above him," said Rep. Bob Filner (Calif.), the acting top Democrat on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.
VA Secretary Jim Nicholson and other department officials on Thursday will testify before a House committee investigating the data theft (AP/Washington Post, 6/29).
Nicholson on Tuesday said the Bush administration has asked for $160.5 million in emergency funds for credit monitoring services and other measures to protect veterans who were affected by the theft (iHealthBeat, 6/28).