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may/june 2009

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BY DAVID L. HOUPPERT, ESQ., DIRECTOR, VETERANS BENEFITS

On June 6, 2006, VVA joined with several other organizations and individual plaintiffs seeking the court’s oversight and damages from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ handling of personal information. VA has a long and well-documented history of being lax about information security. The May 3, 2006, incident involving a VA data analyst who took home electronic data reportedly containing personal information for about 26.5 million veterans and others—which was later reported to have been stolen from the analyst’s home—was another bump in the road for VA information security.

Although VVA was initially a plaintiff in the action, we failed to meet judicial requirements as an organizational plaintiff. Fortunately, the suit went forward under the names of the individual plaintiffs.

The parties and the court recently reached a settlement and the following information has been issued by the claims administrator:

A settlement has been reached with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the Secretary of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and an employee of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in their official capacities (together called the “Defendants”) stemming from the theft of computer equipment, which was reported to contain personal information of military veterans, spouses of military veterans, and military personnel.

The Class includes all veterans, spouses of veterans, and military personnel who had actual damages during the Recovery Period that were directly related to the theft of computer equipment, which was reported to contain personal information, from the home of a VA employee on May 3, 2006. The Recovery Period began on May 3, 2006, and ended on February 11, 2009. The Class also includes all representatives, heirs, administrators, executors, beneficiaries, agents, and assigns of Class Members.

The Defendants will establish a $20 million settlement fund to make payments to Class Members who had eligible out-of-pocket expenses during the Recovery Period, as well as to cover lawyers’ fees, costs, and expenses. Any money remaining in the settlement fund after paying valid claims, lawyers’ fees, costs and expenses will be donated to the Fisher House Foundation, Inc., and The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, both veterans-related charities.

If you submit a valid claim, you will be paid the actual cost of your out-of-pocket expenses incurred during the Recovery Period up to $1,500. The minimum payment for each valid claim will be $75. However, if the total amount needed to pay valid claims exceeds the amount left in the settlement fund after deducting lawyers’ fees, costs and expenses, each Class Member’s payment will be reduced and paid in proportion to all Class Members’ payments.

All claim forms must be postmarked no later than November 27, 2009.

To download a copy of the Claim Form or to view a copy of the Settlement Agreement, go to www.veteransclass.com/Documents Read the instructions carefully, fill out the Claim Form, attach the required documentation, and mail it postmarked no later than November 27, 2009, to: VA Settlement Claims, PO Box 6727, Portland, OR 97228-9767.

 

 

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