House Committee Passes Wilson`s Bill Protecting Veterans
Congresswoman Heather Wilson today announced that the House Judiciary Committee passed legislation she authored to help protect veterans from identity theft.
Wilson, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, introduced the Veterans' Identity Protection (VIP) Act (H.R. 5520) last month to ensure veterans have rapid recourse if their personal information was mishandled by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The bill is backed by 118 bipartisan cosponsors.
The VA has announced that identity information on 26.5 million veterans, discharged since 1975, has apparently been stolen after having been taken home by an employee on a computer. According to the VA, the information includes names, birthdates and Social Security numbers - enough information to raise serious concerns about the risk of identity theft.
"Veterans must be able to file claims and be compensated quickly if there are stolen identities and costs that are the fault of a government agency," Wilson said.
Wilson's bill establishes a claims process for veterans so they do not bear the burden of costs associated with the VA's failure. Under the bill, damages can include reimbursement, as well as court and attorney fees.
"Our veterans should have peace of mind that the VA's mistake will not create financial ruin for them," Wilson said.
The bill establishes a claims office that will be independent of the VA. The bill waives the lengthy federal tort claims process so that veterans don't have to spend years trying to sue the government for damages to them.
"America is a grateful nation," Wilson said. "Millions around the world today live in freedom because of the service and sacrifice of our veterans. The government's screw-up shouldn't be our veterans' problem."
Rep. Wilson is the first graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy serving in Congress, and the only woman veteran currently serving in Congress.