LoBiondo Applauds VA for Offering Free Credit Monitoring for Veterans, Military Personnel Affected by Security Breach
U.S. Representative Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02) today applauded the announcement by Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Secretary James Nicholson that the VA will soon be providing one year of free credit monitoring to the estimated 26.5 million veterans and active military service members whose personal identity information was stolen.
"I applaud the continuing steps Secretary Nicholson is taking to correct the inexcusable failure of the VA that rightly angered our nation's veterans and active military personnel - anger and outrage I certainly share. The termination of employees responsible for the security breach; the comprehensive security review of all computer systems; mandatory privacy and cyber security awareness training courses for all employees; and today's announcement about free credit monitoring are each solid steps," said LoBiondo. "Much more, however, must be done."
According to today's announcement, the VA will solicit bids this week from qualified companies to provide a comprehensive credit monitoring solution, asking these companies to provide expedited proposals and to be prepared to implement them rapidly once they are under contract. After hiring a credit monitoring company, the VA will send a detailed letter to people whose sensitive personal information may have been included in the stolen data. This letter will explain credit monitoring and how eligible people can enroll or "opt-in" for the services. The VA expects to have the services in place and the letters mailed by mid-August.
Secretary Nicholson also announced that the VA is soliciting bids to hire a company that provides data-breach analysis, which will look for possible misuse of the stolen VA data. The analysis would help measure the risk of the data loss, identify suspicious misuse of identity information and expedite full assistance to affected people.
Previously, LoBiondo cosponsored H.R. 5520, the "Veterans' Identity Protection Act," which would ensure veterans have proper recourse to recoup financial hardships if their personal information was mishandled by the VA. Under the bill, an independent office would be established at the VA to handle the claims process, thus ensuring veterans would not bear the burden of the costs associated with the VA failure. Additionally, the often lengthy federal claims process would be waived. Veterans whose information was included in the theft and who can prove their identity has been stolen, with financial repercussions inflicted upon them, would be entitled to damages including reimbursement, as well as repayment for court and attorney fees.
"At this time, Congress continues to thoroughly investigate the VA's mishandling of sensitive, personal information. I fully expect decisive action with bipartisan support that will seek to prevent future errors of this magnitude will be forthcoming," continued LoBiondo. "However, as the investigations progress, we must ensure our veterans have the legal recourse to recoup any damages to their individual finances as a result of this preventable security lapse. The Veterans' Identity Protection Act' is the critical and essential first step in repairing the damage inflicted."
The legislation was introduced by Representative Heather Wilson (NM-01), who is the only woman veteran currently serving in Congress. At present time, there are 115 cosponsors to the bill.
The VA has already notified the affected veterans nationwide of the security breach.