Indy VA office is missing backup tape with vets' records

June 30, 2006

By Maureen Groppe, Star Washington Bureau

The Department of Veterans Affairs is missing a backup tape with more than 16,000 legal case records from an Indianapolis office serving veterans in Indiana and Kentucky.

That disclosure came the same day Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson announced the recovery of a stolen laptop computer and hard drive containing personal information on as many as 26.5 million veterans.

The missing tape from the Regional General Counsel's Office in Indianapolis doesn't contain as much data as was on the stolen laptop, said U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., who heads the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. But the information is of greater sensitivity, he said, because "much is privileged and confidential."

The Indianapolis tape contains personally identifiable information on veterans, their dependents or department employees, such as dates of birth, Social Security numbers, patient records and other documentation related to legal cases handled by the Regional General Counsel's Office. The office, in the Federal Building in Indianapolis, handles VA cases involving such issues as collections on bankruptcies, hospital debt, tort claims, workers' compensation and other employee complaints. The cases also may involve neighboring states.

Whether the tape was misplaced or stolen, or something else happened, Buyer said, "is completely open to the realm of imagination and speculation."

Nicholson said veterans potentially affected are being notified and will have access to the same free credit-protection monitoring system that has been offered to those whose information was on the stolen laptop.

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