Health Information Management

VA agrees to pay $20 million to settle identity theft suit

HIM-HIPAA Insider, February 2, 2009

The Veterans Affairs Department (VA) settled a class-action identity theft lawsuit with five veterans groups and agreed to pay $20 million to veterans, the Associated Press reported January 27.

The VA, which is the largest healthcare organization in the United States, exposed the veterans to identity theft when they lost their personal information in 2006, according to the lawsuit.

Veterans who can prove they suffered emotional distress or lost money because of the lost information will receive part of the settlement—anywhere from $75 to $1,500, the Associated Press reported.

The lawsuit was initiated after a laptop was stolen from the Maryland home of a VA department data analyst. The analyst uploaded the data of up to 26.5 million veterans and active-duty service without permission, including:

  • Names
  • Birth dates
  • Social Security numbers

Officials later recovered the laptop intact. A report by the department’s inspector general accused the data analyst and his supervisors for “putting veterans at unreasonable risk,” the Associated Press reported.

Read the full Associated Press story in The New York Times.

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