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No free credit monitoring for veterans

On the basis of the FBI's analysis, the administration has concluded that credit monitoring services and the associated funding will no longer be necessary

By Beth Reece

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 21, 2006) - The White House withdrew its funding request Tuesday for free credit monitoring services for the 26.5 million veterans and family members whose information was thought to be impacted by the May 3 theft of a Department of Veterans Affairs computer.

Veterans Affairs Secretary R. James Nicholson announced the recovery of the stolen computer June 29, eight days after he announced that the agency would provide one year of free credit monitoring to those whose Social Security numbers and birthdates were feared stolen.

"The FBI has a high degree of confidence - based on the results of the forensic tests and other information gathered during the investigation - that the sensitive data files were not accessed or compromised," said White House Budget Director Rob Portman in a letter to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.

"On the basis of the FBI's analysis, the administration has concluded that credit monitoring services and the associated funding will no longer be necessary," Portman added.

Despite good news that the database was uncompromised, VA continues soliciting bids from companies that provide data-breach analysis to ensure information is kept secure in the future, according to VA spokesman Matt Burns.

"The VA has funds in its budget that can be used for this purpose," Burns said, "and there will be no diminution in the quality of health care and other services provided to veterans as a result of this expenditure."

Since the theft, numerous personnel changes have taken place in the Office of Policy and Planning, where the breach occurred. VA has also hired a special advisor for information security and re-energized its cyber security and privacy awareness training.

As FBI's "high degree of confidence" is not 100 percent assurance that veterans' personal information is safe, Army officials recommend Soldiers continue monitoring their credit reports.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the nation's consumer reporting companies - Equifax, Experian and Trans Union - to provide one free credit a report a year to each citizen, per the individual's request. To receive a free credit report, go to annualcreditreport.com or call (877) 322-8228.

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