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Wilson Bill Offers Veterans Peace of Mind

Location: Washington, DC

Wilson Bill Offers Veterans Peace of Mind

Congresswoman Heather Wilson, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, today announced she has introduced the Veterans' Identity Protection (VIP) Act, H.R. 1307, to ensure veterans have rapid recourse if their personal information is stolen or misused.

"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. "Our veterans should have peace of mind that a mistake at the VA will not create financial ruin for them."

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in May 2006 announced that identity information on 26.5 million veterans, discharged since 1975, was jeopardized after having been taken home by an employee on a personal computer. According to the VA, the mishandled information included names, birthdates and Social Security numbers - enough information to raise serious concerns about the risk of identity theft.

In a separate incident, it was reported on January 22, 2007 that the Department of Veterans Affairs Officials in Alabama began notifying veterans that their information could be at risk because they could not find a missing hard drive. The VA said then that as many as 535,000 veterans could be at risk.

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.

Wilson introduced a similar bill, H.R. 5520, in the 109th Congress, and quickly gathered the support of 120 bipartisan cosponsors.

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 would not 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. This is one more way we can fulfill the promises made to our veterans."

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