Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Data Breach Exposes Veterans' Medical Info


The following is a press release from the The Health Privacy Project decrying the loss of sensitive personal medical and social security number information on up to 26 million veterans from the home of a Veterans Administration employee who was apparently not authorized to have the information.

This is only one in a long string of laptop losses from government and educational institutions. A recent loss of financial data from the home of an financial analyst disclosed credit information for a large number of victims during a break-in at his home. Laptop thefts are becoming more common simply for the value of the machine, rather than it's contents.

But we have got to impress upon those handling sensitive data, whether it is financial, personal or medical data, that we demand strict protection of that information, multi-level encryption of the data when it must be moved, and strict liability for those who compromise that private personal information.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Paul Feldman
May 24, 2006 202.721.5614 (o)
202.904.0899 (c)
pfeldman@healthprivacy.org

DATA SECURITY BREACH DISCLOSES VETERANS' MEDICAL INFORMATION
Disability ratings stolen along with names and Social Security numbers

(Washington, DC) The names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, and disability ratings in some cases of as many as 26.5 million veterans were stolen recently from the home of a Department of Veterans Affairs employee. This theft represents the biggest unauthorized disclosure of Social Security data ever.

"Millions of U.S. veterans may now suffer the aftermath of this serious and unauthorized disclosure of medical and other highly sensitive personal information, all because the Veterans Administration did not take steps adequate to ensure its security," according to Paul Feldman, Deputy Director of the Health Privacy Project. "It is completely unacceptable for the VA to have a system in place which makes possible employees taking personal information home in briefcases or laptop computers."

The VA Inspector General is very critical of the department for its lax information security and emphasizes that the employee was not authorized to remove such sensitive material.

"Our personal medical information must be safeguarded, especially by the federal government itself," continues Feldman. "What can Americans expect with respect to medical privacy if our government cannot ensure the security of our most personal information? This is a crushing blow to much-needed efforts to establish safe and secure electronic health information systems. American consumers deserve better, and Congress should use this unfortunate event as a wake-up call to be vigilant to protect the security and privacy of medical and other personal information."

The Health Privacy Project is dedicated to raising public awareness of the importance of ensuring health privacy in order to improve health care access and quality, both on an individual and a community level. Founded in 1997 by Janlori Goldman, Director, the Health Privacy Project provides a broad array of healthcare stakeholders with the information and tools they need to work more effectively toward greater protection of health information through cutting-edge research studies, policy analyses, Congressional testimony, extensive work with the media, and a Web site Visit The Health Privacy Project to learn more.

1120 19th Street, NW, 8th Floor, Washington, DC 20036


202-721-5614 (Tel) * 202-530-0128 (Fax) * www.healthprivacy.org

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