“We are pleased and relieved that the authorities have finally
recovered the missing VA laptop and external hard drive,” said John Rowan,
National President of Vietnam Veterans of America. “This does not, however,
obviate the crisis of confidence in the security of veterans’ personal data
and contact information as managed by the VA.
it negate the basis of the lawsuit filed on behalf of veterans in Federal
District Court in Washington. The lawsuit, in which VVA is lead plaintiff,
is about the egregious violation of the Privacy Act caused by the cavalier
attitude of an entrenched bureaucracy at the VA that has put veterans’
information at risk,” Rowan said.
“The VA’s handling of this unfortunate theft exposes
the very real need for major reform in how records with personal information
are handled and secured, and VVA intends to pursue with vigor legal remedies
to insure that such a situation cannot occur again.
“While we applaud Chairman Buyer’s suggestion that the
VA’s IT chief be elevated to the status of an under secretary, we don’t
believe this goes far enough. Elevating the VA’s IT chief is a step in the
right direction, but a new title with more authority is no solution to
problems that have festered for years. We think the Secretary and the VA
need expert help looking out for veterans and not just trying to protect the
VA. We will encourage the courts to oversee the VA’s IT affairs and to
approve the VA’s actions until the court is satisfied the VA can and will
insure real cyber-security,” Rowan said.
“We also want answers to the questions we have posed to
Secretary Nicholson and his senior staff: For what purpose, and on what
legal basis, were these data collected in the first place? How did the VA
gain access to this data? What other data on veterans have the VA—and
other federal agencies—gathered?
“Until we get satisfactory answers and are satisfied something like this
won’t occur again at the VA, we intend to pursue all legal means available
to us,” Rowan concluded.