For Immediate Release
Thursday, May 25, 2006

Theft of Veterans Data - Inexcusable
Dr. Sanders discussed the recent theft of sensitive, personal data of 26.5 million veterans from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

A Department of Veterans Affairs computer was stolen from a suburban Maryland home with data on 26.5 million veterans including nearly anyone who has been discharged from the military since 1975.  The data put these veterans at risk of experiencing identity theft.  There is no evidence yet that the data have been employed for such a purpose yet.

It is clear that there was an inexcusable delay in notification of the Veterans Affairs Secretary and the F.B.I. about the breach in security.  Veterans have every right to be angry about the careless way their personal data were treated.  I support a full investigation into this breakdown in proper information management practices.

Veterans should be concerned but should not panic.  There are steps that veterans can take to protect themselves against identity theft.  Ask the three credit reporting companies Equifax, TransUnion and Experian to place an initial fraud alert on your credit file.  Unfortunately, in Indiana, unlike in several other states, consumers do not have the right to put a security freeze on their credit files.  When I serve in Congress I will support federal legislation that establishes these and other protections against identity theft on a national basis. Next, order a free copy of your credit report from each of the companies.  Look at it carefully for new accounts or debts that you don't recognize.

In recognition of my strong positions on support for veterans I was contacted yesterday by the Democratic House Leadership about the recent theft of veterans' personal data before their official announcement concerning new legislation.  I am declaring my support for Rep. John Salazar's legislation that calls on the VA to:

    * Provide one year of free credit monitoring to affected individuals.
    * Provide one free credit report each year for two years after the end of credit monitoring, in addition to the free credit report available under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

I know that this cannot repair the damage of the breach, but it can help limit it.

The incumbent Congressman does not share my attitude towards protecting veterans from identity theft.  Just yesterday when he was asked about the liability of the Veterans Administration for the theft of identities of veterans Congressman Buyer was quoted as saying, “How many of them would have had their identities stolen anyway?” This is the completely wrong attitude to have towards our veterans and their personal data.

Recent reports have indicated that not only the personal data of veterans but also the personal data of their spouses and other family members may have been compromised.  The proposed legislation should be extended to protect family members as well.  The families of veterans and individuals serving in the military have always understood that they are affected as one unit by threats to veterans benefits or health-care access.  The theft of personal data is a reminder about how the lives of veterans and their family members are tied to the actions of the Veterans Administration.  The 4th District needs a Congressman who understands these bonds and will fight to protect the interest of veterans.

A graduate of Yale University and the University of California at Berkeley, Dr. Sanders conducted research at UCSF and the Whitehead Institute (affiliated with M.I.T.) before joining the Department of Biological Sciences at Purdue University where he is now an Associate Professor.  David Sanders’ three boys, Honi, Akiva, and Yinnon Sanders attend the West Lafayette public schools.


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