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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs


Subcontractor Notifies VA of Missing Computer with Vet Files

Aug. 7, 2006, 08:00:00 AM

Printable Version

VA, Law Enforcement Authorities Investigating

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that a subcontractor, hired to assist in insurance collections for VA’s medical centers in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, has informed the Department that a desktop computer containing personal information on some veterans is missing from the company’s offices.

“VA’s Inspector General, the FBI and local law enforcement are conducting a thorough investigation of this matter,” said the Honorable R. James Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs. 

VA was notified on the afternoon of Thursday, August 3, by the subcontractor, Unisys Corporation, that the computer was missing from its Reston, Va., offices.  VA immediately dispatched a team to Unisys to assist in the search for the missing computer and to help determine the precise nature of the information it may have contained.  

While the investigation is in an early stage, VA believes the records involved are limited to people who received treatment at the two Pennsylvania medical centers during the past four years.  It is believed the desktop computer may have contained patients’ names, addresses, Social Security Numbers, dates of birth, insurance carriers and billing information, dates of military service, and claims data that may include some medical information.  

Initial estimates indicate the desktop contained information on approximately 5,000 patients treated at Philadelphia, approximately 11,000 patients treated at Pittsburgh, and approximately 2,000 deceased patients.  VA is also investigating the possibility the computer may have contained information on approximately another 20,000 people who received care through the Pittsburgh medical center. 

Investigators are working on this incident with the full cooperation of Unisys.  VA is also working with Unisys regarding the offer of credit monitoring and individual notifications to those who may be affected. 

Upon learning the computer was missing, VA personnel took immediate steps to notify the appropriate senior VA leadership, including the Secretary and Deputy Secretary, appropriate congressional offices and committees, VA’s Office of the Inspector General and other law enforcement authorities, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Computer Emergency Response Team.

The ongoing investigation will provide VA more details on the precise number of veterans whose information the computer may have contained.  VA will provide further updates as the investigation produces additional information.

“VA is making progress to reform its information technology and cyber security procedures, but this report of a missing computer at a subcontractor’s secure building underscores the complexity of the work ahead as we establish VA as a leader in data and information security,” Nicholson added. 

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