May 22, 2006- Data Security Breach Leaves 26.5 Million Veterans Vulnerable to Identity Theft

Washington, DC:  Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), co-chair of the Congressional Privacy Caucus, made the following statement in response to breaking news that a theft at the home of a Veterans Affairs (VA) employee has resulted in the loss of personal information belonging to 26.5 million U.S. military veterans. 

“Social Security numbers and date of birth information are pure gold in the hands of identity thieves, who quickly convert them into credit cards and cash equivalents to perpetrate massive frauds.  Setting up an 800-number and a Web site for veterans is a good first step, but the VA also should immediately alert the 26.5 million veterans whose personal information has been compromised.  These identifiers unlock Americans’ entire personal lives, and veterans need to know immediately about this breach so that they can take measures to protect themselves.  While it remains to be seen whether the thieves were aware of the contents of the VA employee’s computer when they stole it, this theft raises questions about the VA’s data security policies, such as the degree to which the VA uses encryption to render data unreadable to unauthorized individuals,” said Rep. Markey.

“I am seeking answers from all of the departments in the Bush Administration’s Cabinet to assess the data privacy and security measures that they have in place to protect the confidentiality of the information in their databases.  More than a year after the data theft at ChoicePoint and the deluge of data breaches that followed, the Republican-controlled Congress still has not passed a data security bill.  This is unacceptable, and I will continue to propose tough new data protections for consumers while pursuing answers from the VA and the Bush Administration,” Markey concluded.   

Rep. Markey is a long time advocate of consumer privacy and has introduced three bills in the 109th Congress; H.R. 1078:  “The Social Security Number Protection Act;” H.R. 1080:  “The Information Protection and Security Act;” and H.R. 1653: “The Safeguarding Americans from Exporting Identification Data (SAFE ID) Act” to protect consumers from identity theft and data fraud.  He will be contacting the VA to see that the right steps to inform veterans of this data breach have occurred. 

For more information on Rep. Markey’s legislation to protect consumer privacy check out: http://markey.house.gov/

For Immediate Release
May 22, 2006

 CONTACT: Tara McGuinness
202.225.2836