by CIO Staff

VA Data Theft Could Cost Taxpayers $500M

May 25, 20062 mins

Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Jim Nicholson on Thursday stood in front of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, and explained that taxpayers may end up having to cough up $500 million as a result of the May 3 theft of personal data on 26.5 million U.S. veterans, Reuters reports.

“As a veteran myself … I am mad as hell,” Nicholson said, according to Reuters.

The sensitive data was stolen from the suburban Maryland residence of a department data analyst who did not have the proper approval to bring the information home. That employee has been placed on administrative leave.  Nicholson told the committee that “other people are also in my sights as a result of this,” according to Reuters.

Though the secretary did not say the government would cover all potential costs to veterans, Nicholson did recommend that Congress pass a measure that would entail such coverage over future incidents, Reuters reports.

Nicholson said he thought it would cost “way north of $100 million” to help prevent and make up for potential losses to veterans, but he also did not shoot down the suggestion that recovery efforts could cost taxpayers five times more than that, according to Reuters.

Nicholson initially told the committee that the stolen information “did not include any of the VA’s electronic health records,” but after further questioning by Rep. Bob Filner (D-California), the Bush cabinet secretary admitted the data did include codes representing veterans’ specific physical ailments, Reuters reports.

The stolen data contains information on every U.S. veteran who served or was discharged since 1976.

More than 100,000 frustrated and anxious veterans have already phoned in to the VA support call center since the theft was reported on Monday, according to Reuters.

For related news coverage, read Data on 26.5M Veterans Stolen From VA Staffer’s Home, Gov’t Source: Vet Data Theft Kept Quiet for Nearly 3 Weeks and VA Chief Promises Accountability for ID Theft.

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