IDs of Active Personnel on Stolen Laptop

Personal data on up to 50,000 active Navy and National Guard personnel were among those stolen from a Veterans Affairs employee last month, the government said Saturday in a disclosure that goes beyond what VA initially reported.

VA Secretary Jim Nicholson said his agency discovered after an internal investigation that the names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth of up to 20,000 National Guard and Reserve personnel who were on at least their second active-duty call-up were "potentially included."

In addition, the same information on up to 30,000 active-duty Navy personnel who completed their first enlistment term prior to 1991 also were believed to be stored on the computer laptop and disks stolen from a VA data analyst on May 3.

The VA has previously said the stolen data involved up to 26.5 million veterans discharged since 1975, as well as some of their spouses; veterans discharged before 1975 also were deemed at risk if they submitted claims to the agency.

"VA continues to conduct a complete and thorough investigation into this incident, and those efforts are providing additional details about the nature of the data that may be involved," Nicholson said in a statement.

Veterans groups have criticized the VA for a three-week delay in publicizing the May 3 burglary at the data analyst's Aspen Hill, Md., home. Last week, internal documents obtained by The Associated Press showed that the stolen data in many cases included phone numbers and addresses of veterans, as well as 6,744 records pertaining to "mustard gas veterans" - or those who participated in chemical testing programs during World War II.

"Once and for all the VA needs to come clean about this situation," American Legion spokeswoman Ramona Joyce said in an e-mailed statement Saturday. "Our active duty and Guard personnel have enough to worry about with the war on terror."

Nicholson said there was no evidence that information for other active-duty personnel had been breached.

He said there have been no reports that the stolen data have been used for identity theft but wanted to alert the public about the VA's findings out of an "abundance of caution" in what has become one of the nation's largest security breaches.

During hearings last month, Nicholson said he was "mad as hell" that employees did not notify him of the burglary until May 16; the public was told May 22. Since then, the VA has fired the data analyst who lost the personal information, and his boss, VA deputy assistant secretary Michael McLendon, has stepped down.

The department has also placed Dennis Duffy, the acting head of the division in which the data analyst worked, on administrative leave.

"VA will continue to work with the Department of Defense, other government agencies, members of Congress and other stakeholders to inform and help protect those potentially impacted," Nicholson said.

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On the Net:

Info for veterans suspecting identity theft: http://www.firstgov.gov or 1-800-FED-INFO


Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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