More sensitive information goes missing from VA

A desktop computer possibly containing the names, Social Security numbers and medical data of up to 38,000 people is missing from the offices of a Veterans Affairs Department subcontractor.

VA officials announced Monday that the computer has gone missing. The offices of New Jersey Republicans Reps. Frank LoBiondo and Jim Saxton released a statement Friday saying the computer had been stolen from a Reston, Va., office complex.

The computer is believed to contain the personal records of people who received treatment at the department's medical centers in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia during the past four years, VA stated. The computer also may contain addresses, birth dates, insurance carrier and billing information, and dates of military service.

VA estimates the records include information on about 5,000 patients in Philadelphia, 11,000 in Pittsburgh and 2,000 deceased patients. The agency is investigating whether the computer contained information on another 20,000 individuals who received medical care at the Pittsburgh center.

The subcontractor, Unisys Corp., was hired to assist in insurance collections for those medical centers. VA said it is working with Unisys to offer notifications and credit monitoring to those who may be affected.

VA was notified Thursday afternoon by Unisys of the missing computer and dispatched a team to the offices near the Dulles Airport to determine the contents of the computer. Department officials immediately informed the appropriate congressional offices and committees of the breach.

VA Secretary James Nicholson said the department's inspector general, the FBI and local law enforcement are investigating the matter.

The incident comes less than three months after a laptop computer containing the personal information of 26.5 million people was stolen from the home of a VA employee.

The information has since been recovered and suspects arrested, but only after millions of dollars were spent notifying veterans; at least five VA officials resigned and more than a half-dozen congressional hearings were held by the House Veterans' Affairs Committee and two by the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Since the first data breach, Nicholson has vowed to make VA's information security the best in the government by instituting a series of reforms of what critics say is a dysfunctional IT organization.

Nicholson said, "VA is making progress to reform its information technology and cybersecurity procedures," but the most recent data breach "underscores the complexity of the work ahead as we establish VA as a leader in data and information security."

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer, R-Ind., called the latest incident a "frustrating reminder of the urgent need for action" on legislation (H.R. 5835) that passed out of his committee last month. The bill would further centralize information technology authority at the department and would require credit protection and fraud resolution services upon request.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.