Veterans, protect your personal information now: Don#039;t wait for a letter

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 17, 2007

This Monday – three weeks after a hard drive containing personal information of veterans and their doctors was reported stolen from a Birmingham hospital – the VA began notifying veterans.

Under fire from U.S. Rep. Artur Davis (D-Birmingham) for taking so long to act, the agency said it wanted to &uot;get a handle on the facts.&uot;

It’s not likely there was any possibility that someone stole the disk so that he or she could write thank-you letters to the veterans for their services to their country. Bad people steal personal data for one reason: to use that information in scams.

On Saturday, the VA said the missing hard drive may have contained personal information, including Social Security numbers, on about 535,000 individuals and billing information on 1.3 million doctors nationwide.

Davis said the department told him that the missing storage unit included the Social Security numbers and names of about 10,000 people, plus another 525,000 Social Security numbers. The information on doctors includes names and Medicare billing codes, he said.

The VA said it would provide a year of free credit monitoring to anyone whose information is compromised.

The sad fact is that veterans may not know their data has been compromised unless they are monitoring their credit reports.

We encourage veterans whose information might have been included – seemingly those who are using veterans’ health benefits- to closely monitor their credit reports for the next year or so.

Protecting yourself seems a much faster route than waiting for the VA.