LoBiondo Co-Sponsors Legislation to Provide Legal Recourse for 26.6 Million Veterans
U.S. Representative Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02) announced today that he is a cosponsor of H.R. 5520, the "Veterans' Identity Protection Act," which would ensure veterans have proper recourse if their personal information was mishandled by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Recently, the VA announced that the identity information - including names, birthdates, and Social Security numbers - of 26.5 million veterans, discharged since 1975, was apparently stolen after having been taken home by a senior career official on a laptop computer.
"When America called upon our men and women to put their lives on the line for their country, they proudly and selflessly answered the call. Today, our nation's veterans have every right to be angered - and I absolutely share in their anger and outrage - as the VA has unquestionably and inexcusably failed them," LoBiondo blasted. "As Congress begins to thoroughly investigate the VA's mishandling of sensitive, personal information - with decisive action to prevent future errors of this magnitude likely to follow - this legislation will be the critical and essential first step in repairing the damage inflicted. 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."
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 can prove that 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.
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 72 cosponsors to the bill.