Locals heedful of stolen vet info

Staff and Wire Reports

More than 6,000 local veterans have received word they may be among the millions of veterans nationwide whose personal information was stolen in May from the home of a Veterans Affairs employee.

Shelly Winn of Clovis said she and her Vietnam veteran husband received the notification letter a couple of weeks ago, but they aren’t overly concerned.

“We will keep an eye on it and check to make sure, but we’re not really worried about it,” she said.

Living in an electronic age where information is constantly passing through the Internet means people are more vulnerable any way, she said casually.

There have been no reports so far of any identity theft stemming from the burglary in suburban Maryland.

John Fondrick, a field service officer for the Veterans Service Commission office in Clovis, said he does not know how many area veterans were affected by the theft.
Names, Social Security numbers and birthdays were among the information stolen, causing concern about credit risk.
Fondrick said no one has approached him asking about the theft, but he has heard comments made by vets.

“They’re just concerned about how it’s going to affect them,” he said.
The VA is recommending veterans monitor their credit, and issued free fraud prevention packets, Fondrick said.

The government said Wednesday it would provide free credit monitoring to millions of veterans whose personal information was stolen last month, and acknowledged it was not close to catching those responsible.

Eligible for one year of credit monitoring will be any of the 17.5 million people who are known to have had their Social Security numbers compromised. The VA has said up to 26.5 million could be affected, although some names appeared to be duplicates.

The move is expected to cost millions of dollars. That is in addition to the $14 million the VA has spent to notify and assist veterans in what has become one of the nation’s largest security breaches.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson said those who have gotten letters from the VA saying they are at risk will receive additional information — probably in early August after the VA solicits bids from contractors — on how to sign up for one year of monitoring.

The VA also will hire a company for data analysis to look for possible misuse of the personal information.

Veterans groups and lawmakers from both political parties have criticized the agency about the theft and noted years of warnings by auditors that information security was lax. The data analyst — who is in the process of being dismissed — had taken the information home, apparently without his supervisor’s knowledge.

The VA has been criticized for waiting nearly three weeks — from May 3 until May 22 — to notify veterans about the theft.

The Associated Press contributed to this report