(Washington, D.C.) –
Vietnam Veterans of America has joined with four other
national organizations and several individual veterans in filing a
class-action lawsuit seeking judicial oversight and protection of the VA
computer files with personal information about 26.5 million veterans.
“It is appalling to all veterans that their personal
information–information that is supposed to be held in confidence–is
potentially in the hands of individuals who can wreak identity-theft havoc,”
said John Rowan, National President of VVA and a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
“VA Secretary Nicholson has said he is
‘mad as hell’ over this incident and the breakdown in command and control of
his department, and we believe him. However, he has yet to answer some
critical questions: What was an employee of the VA doing with the names,
Social Security numbers, and dates of birth of all these veterans, the vast
majority of whom have never availed themselves of VA services? Why is the
VA collecting this information in the first place?”
VVA is joined by four other national
organizations and individual veterans in the lawsuit, which was filed in
federal district court today by attorney Douglas Rosinski of the law firm
Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. They are the National Gulf
War Resource Center, Radiated Veterans of America, Citizen Soldier, and
Veterans for Peace.
“Saying ‘We’re sorry’ is hardly
comforting to veterans and their families,” Rowan said. “The VA has been
criticized for years about lax information security and that includes
criticism from the VA’s own Inspector General. The VA still hasn’t properly
secured all the personal information under its control. We’ve just seen the
largest known unauthorized disclosure of Social Security numbers in
history. We hope this lawsuit will help Secretary Nicholson correct the
known vulnerabilities in how the VA protects private information. If the VA
can’t solve the problem, maybe the courts can help. Since all previous
attempts at protecting privacy of individual veterans by heads of the VA
have failed, perhaps the weight of the judiciary can make the difference.
This lawsuit seeks to insure that no harm will come to veterans as a result
of this theft, and that such an incident can never occur again.”
The veterans’ complaint, filed in the
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks:
A declaratory judgment that the VA’s loss of these records
violated and continues to violate both the Privacy and Administrative Procedure
A court order that the VA disclose the exact nature of its
compromised records system and to individually inform each veteran of
every record it maintains on him/her.
An injunction preventing the VA from altering any data
storage system and prohibiting any further use of these data until a
court-appointed panel of experts determines how best to implement
safeguards to prevent any further breaches.
A judgment awarding $1,000 to each veteran who can show
that he/she has been harmed by the VA’s violation of the Privacy Act.