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september/october Issue

red star bulletThe Veteran Departments : Featured Stories / Letters / President's Message / VVAF Report / Government Relations / Ask The Parliamentarian / Veterans Benefits Update / Membership Affairs Committee Report / ETABO Committee Report / Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee Report / From The National Secretary / PTSD Substance Abuse Comittee Report / TAPS / Region 7 Report / AVVA Report / SHAD/Project 112 Task Force Report / Veterans Against Drugs Task Force Report / VetsConnect Report / Homeless Veterans Task Force Report / Women Veterans Committee Report / Arts of War / Book Review / Membership Notes / Chapter of The Year / Locator / Reunions

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ROM THE NATIONAL SECRETARY

BY BARRY HAGGE

Good news, bad news appears to be the direction in 2006. Give us the good news, make us smile, and in the next breath slam us again. We were smiling after the announcement that the VA had recovered the stolen laptop and that law enforcement was reasonably sure that the data had not been compromised. Then, in the same breath, we were told that about additional missing computers.

Fast forward to the first two weeks in August. Now we have a VA contractor who misplaced a laptop. Not to worry, we are told, it only contained medical records from veterans treated at Pennsylvania VA Medical Centers. The remainder of September should be a real treat to observe.

At the Leadership Conference, I conducted a privacy seminar to fill in for the scheduled Agent Orange presentation. An 8:30 Saturday morning seminar bucking up against an excellent presentation by the VITF is a brutal time slot. I hope those who attended the privacy seminar took something home. Remember the issue of People magazine I opened with? That's the one featuring the Tennessee minister's wife who will be tried for murder. The magazine implied
that the root cause of the crime was the Nigerian 419 scam. While that scam is over 30 years old, people still believe they can get something for nothing. If it looks too good to be true, it is.

Things to remember:

No reputable organization or company will ever ask for your account information over the phone or through an e-mail. Do not fall for this scam.

Don't click on a link in an unsolicited email. Instead, type in a Web address you know to be accurate.

If you have an ATM or debit card, do not enter your pin number at a store.

Monitor your checking and savings account. Online banking lets you do this with little effort. Strange withdrawals are not good. Don't disregard that strange 69-cent charge. It can be a test to see if a criminal has a valid account number.

Monitor your credit card bills. If you see a charge that you didn't make, something's wrong. Contact the credit card company and have it checked.

Obtain your credit reports and monitor them regularly. The law entitles you to one free credit report each year from each major credit bureau. You can request a free credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, by calling 1-877-322-8228 or by
using www.AnnualCreditReport.com There was a long fight to force the credit bureaus to supply this information. Use it and look for strange accounts.

For some practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you protect your personal information, secure your computer, and guard against Internet scams, see OnguardOnline.gov, http://onguardonline.gov/index.html .

Above all, contact your Congressman, Senators, and State Representatives and express your disgust and your desire for effective corrective action. This is not a partisan issue. We will not accomplish anything by attempting to turn it into one. This issue has existed for a long time, and solutions have been resisted. Nor is this only a VA problem. It is systemic in many federal and state agencies.

Tell them you vote and elections are coming up. Fix it now.

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