Huge amount of patient data stolen from Veterans Affairs

Earlier this month, the personal information of 26.5 million U.S. veterans was taken from Veterans Affairs after a laptop containing the information was stolen from the home of a data analyst working for the government organization, according to an AP report.   

The employee had taken the computer home to do work, and representatives for the VA have stated that they do not believe that the theft of the computer had anything to do with the data it contained. However, now that this story has earned national media attention it is highly likely that the person now in possession of the laptop – which holds information such as names, Social Security numbers, and birthdates of service members from 1975 to now – is aware of the value of what they stole.

The information contained on the laptop is valuable because it can be used to run credit histories, or to open up a new credit card.   

Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson said this week in a conference call with reporters that thus far there was no evidence that the burglars had made use of any of the information. Nicholson also indicated that the FBI, local law enforcement and the VA inspector general were all involved in the investigation, the AP reports.

"We have a full-scale investigation," said Nicholson, during the conference call. "I want to emphasize, there were no medical records of any veteran and no financial information of any veteran that's been compromised."Nicholson also added that the VA felt that it "must exercise an abundance of caution and make sure our veterans are aware of this incident."

However, since the story broke, concerns have arisen that the VA stalled reporting the data theft to the FBI. According to a Chicago Tribune report, the FBI wasn't notified until late last week which is nearly two weeks after the incident.

The news has obviously caused uproar in many sectors, including both Democrat and Republican Senators.

"This is a scandal," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), according to the Tribune. "The information was kept from the American public. I would hope that the administration is figuring out a way to find out what happened."

Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, claimed that the panel expected to launch hearings as soon as tomorrow regarding the matter because in his view "26 million people deserve answers,” according to the Tribune.