[MAY 24, 2006]
WASHINGTON -- The
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has recently learned that an
employee, a data analyst, took home electronic data from VA, which
he was not authorized to do. This behavior was in violation of
department policies. The data contained identifying information,
including names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth for up
to 26.5 million veterans and some spouses, as well as some
disability ratings. Importantly, the affected data did not include
any of VA's electronic health records nor any financial information.
The employee's home was burglarized and this data was stolen.
The employee has been placed on administrative leave pending the
outcome of an investigation.
Appropriate law enforcement agencies,
including the FBI and the VA inspector general's office, have
launched full-scale investigations into this matter. Authorities
believe it is unlikely the perpetrators targeted the items because
of any knowledge of the data contents. It is possible that they
remain unaware of the information they possess or of how to make use
of it. However, out of an abundance of caution, VA is taking all
possible steps to protect and inform our veterans.
VA is working with members of Congress, the news media, veterans
service organizations and other government agencies to help ensure
that those veterans and their families are aware of the situation
and of the steps they may take to protect themselves from misuse of
their personal information. VA will send out individual notification
letters to veterans to every extent possible.