Investigation launched into VA handling of Social Security numbers
News 3 investigation highlights email issue
Channel 3000 News
Published On: Nov 20 2015
The inspector general's office at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has launched an official review of how hundreds of Social Security numbers of Wisconsin veterans were emailed last April to an unauthorized individual from a VA.gov email address.
The move comes after a News 3 investigation highlighting the April incident and a request to the VA's inspector general from Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) to look at whether the personally identifiable information of veterans is being sent unprotected nationwide. Federal privacy laws and multiple VA regulations require all emails with personally identifiable information to be password-protected.
Current VA software flags emails with nine-digit numbers separated by dashes, but not for nine-digit sequences that don't have dashes. In the U.S. military, since Vietnam, veterans' identification numbers have been their Social Security numbers without dashes to separate the numbers.
In a letter to Baldwin, VA Deputy Inspector General Linda Halliday wrote: "Before undertaking a nationwide review, we first need to understand what happened in Wisconsin." Halliday indicated that inspector general's office was also looking at a "potentially related situation" in another unnamed state.
"I am pleased that the VA inspector general is taking action to review what happened in Wisconsin," Baldwin said in a statement emailed to News 3. "The accidental and unintended disclosure of personal information can put our veterans and their families at risk for fraud and identity theft, so we need to make certain that the VA has the tools in place to prevent that from happening."
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