DoD Working to Identify Troops Affected by VA Data Theft
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 7, 2006 The Defense Department is working to determine exactly how many active duty and Reserve servicemembers could be affected by the recent theft of personal information from a Department of Veterans Affairs employee's home, a DoD official said here today.
DoD is working equally hard to ensure servicemembers are informed about the issue and protected, said Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy.
"We're going to make it easy by working with VA for servicemembers," he said. "There's nothing that could be done for the military that the Defense Department won't do on their behalf, as quick and as convenient as we can."
VA announced yesterday that the personal data of as many as 1.1 million active duty servicemembers, 430,000 members of the National Guard, and 645,000 members of the reserves could be included in the information, which was loaded onto discs and taken home by a VA employee in May. The employee loaded some of the information onto his laptop computer, which was later stolen from his home.
The numbers reported yesterday are preliminary findings and represent the worst-case scenario, Carr said.
When DoD learned June 1 that some current servicemembers could have been affected by the data loss, officials asked Veterans Affairs for all the Social Security numbers in the database available to the employee, Carr said. These numbers were checked against databases at the Defense Manpower Data Center, which maintains military personnel information, he said.
"There's still a chance, because (the VA) provided the database with all the possibilities the employee might have had, that when we double-check the content of the (discs), then the problem might be less than first reported," Carr said.
For now, people should assume that 80 percent of the active-duty force and 90 percent of the Selected Reserve -- National Guard and Reserve members affiliated with units -- are vulnerable to personal data theft, Carr said. The vulnerable information includes names, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth, he said.
Veterans Affairs keeps personal information on current military members because the department administers benefits like the Montgomery G.I. Bill and Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, which are issued during active duty and after separation, Carr said. The information ensures servicemembers receive their benefits quickly and accurately, he said.
Carr said DoD should have more firm numbers of who could be affected in a couple of days, but for now all servicemembers should be vigilant and look for changes in their credit or financial status. Servicemembers can use credit monitoring services, and any fraudulent activity should be reported immediately, he said.
Veterans Affairs has indicated that it is going to pursue credit-monitoring services for those affected by the data loss, Carr said.
Servicemembers seeking more information on the data loss or advice on how to protect themselves can go to a special Web site and a toll-free telephone number for those possibly affected by the data loss: http://www.firstgov.gov and 800-FED-INFO (800-333-4636). Each features up-to-date news and information on the data compromise. The site provides links to many other sites dealing with credit monitoring, Carr said.
The Web site also provides steps on how to check credit reports, how to guard against identity theft and who to call if an individual believes any fraudulent activity is occurring with his or her personal information.
Information relating to the defeat of identify theft also is available at the Military OneSource Web site.
When DoD officials have a better idea of how many people are affected, they will establish a searchable Internet database so people can find out if their information was compromised, Carr said. In the event of an identity theft resulting from this information loss, it is not yet clear whether VA will be responsible to assist or compensate the servicemember, he said.