2006-05-31 / Seniors

Crowley Charges Coverup In Vets Data Theft

Senior Spotlight
BY JOHN TOSCANO

Congressmember Joseph Crowley Congressmember Joseph Crowley Expressing his anger over the theft of the personal and private data of more than 27 million American veterans, Congressmember Joseph Crowley charged that the Department of Veterans Affairs knew of the theft on May 3, not 13 days later as Secretary Jim Nicholson has claimed.

In a related twist, Crowley said in a news release, "officials familiar with the case have also said investigators were having trouble finding the VA staffer who did not have authorization to remove the disk to his home, where they were taken by a burglar."

The Queens/Bronx lawmaker, in making these disclosures, cited them as reasons why the FBI should have been called in as soon as the disks were reported missing.

Crowley stated: "So much damage could have been perpetrated in that period of time against veterans. That this matter was hidden from law enforcement and the public is another of a long list of examples of this administration covering up facts instead of telling the American public the truth."

Crowley said investigators in the Justice Department and the FBI are concerned that the loss of time caused by "the VA's refusal to notify law enforcement of this massive identity breach of the VA" could cost valuable clues as to whereabouts of the data, stored on computer disks that were stolen when a VA employee's home was burglarized May 3.

Meanwhile, Congressmember Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) began circulating a letter to his fellow congressmembers, urging them to sign a letter to Nicholson concerning the theft. Ackerman's letter demands that Nicholson answer for his department's failure to notify veterans and the FBI in a timely manner that veterans' names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, as well as some disability ratings, had been stolen and were missing.

The 26.7 million veterans whose financial security may be compromised served in the armed forces from the mid-1970s and forward, Nicholson said.

In response to the data theft, which Crowley thinks may be the largest data theft affecting the federal government in history, he is a co-sponsor of a bill that would authorize the federal government to take a series of actions to protect the 26.7 million veterans.

The measure, called the Veterans Identity Protection Act of 2006, would:

+Provide one year of free credit monitoring of affected veterans and their families to ensure thieves weren't applying for credit cards or loans in the veterans' names.

+Provide one free credit report each year for two years after the end of credit monitoring, in addition to free credit

reports otherwise available. This would enable the affected veterans to review their credit histories to make sure "no funny business or improprieties" were being committed against them.

Crowley stated, "A lifetime of savings and one's credit reputation could disappear in an instant because of this data breach and a delay in the notification of this breach. This could never happen in the business world, but the government covered it up.

"While an investigation is needed into this criminal act, first and foremost we need to protect the identities and life savings of 27 million American veterans. Hearings are fine but action is paramount!"

Meanwhile, he said, any of the affected veterans, as a precautionary measure, can order a free credit report online at annualcreditreport.com, by calling toll free 877-322-8228, or by writing: Annual Credit Report Request Service; Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30384-5281.

A fraud alert can be placed by calling TransUnion, 800-680-7289; www.transunion.com, Equifax: 877576-5734; www.equifax.com, or Experian: 888-397-3742; www.experian. com.

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