Personal info of 26.5 million veterans lost

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Electronic data containing the personal information of as many as 26.5 million veterans and some spouses has been stolen from the home of a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employee who violated agency policy by leaving the office with the information.

The data – stolen in a burglary – contained the names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth of the veterans, but did not include any health or financial records, the VA said in a statement today.

Authorities do not believe the burglars targeted the home of the employee, who is a data analyst. The FBI and VA Inspector General’s Office have opened an investigation.

"It is possible that they (the burglars) remain unaware of the information they possess or how to make use of it," the statement said. "However, out of an abundance of caution, the VA is taking all possible steps to protect and inform our veterans."

The VA plans to send out letters to veterans notifying them of the theft, according to the statement. Veterans also can visit www.firstgov.gov or www.va.gov/opa for additional information. They can call (800) 333-4636 to learn more about the incident and ways to protect against identity theft.

The VA worker who left the office with the data has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

The VA has briefed the president’s newly formed federal Identity Theft Task Force, which plans to work with credit bureaus to ensure all veterans receive a free credit report.

The task force was scheduled to meet today to "coordinate the federal response, recommend further ways to protect affected veterans and increase safeguards to prevent the reoccurrence of such incidents," the statement said.

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