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House panel chair calls VA data loss 'troubling'

Jun. 12, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By NICOLE BLAKE JOHNSON   |   Comments

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Another lawmaker is raising concerns about an incident at the Veterans Affairs Department involving the deletion of hundreds of thousands of electronic documents and images last month, including active loan files.

“The events surrounding this massive loss of veterans’ data are troubling on a number of levels,” Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said in a statement to Federal Times. “It’s bad enough that VA permanently lost nearly half a million important loan documents. What’s worse is that for nearly three weeks department officials have been unable to provide the public with a straight answer as to what happened.”

About 464,000 electronic documents and images — including active loan files, appraisal documents and grant documents for veterans and service members who qualify for the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant — were deleted from a VA computer system as a result of human error, according to VA.

Federal Times first reported the incident June 6 and incorrectly stated the incident occurred at the Cleveland VA Regional Office, based on misinformation provided by VA. The department later said the incident occurred at an information technology center in Austin, Texas.

“Given VA’s admission last week that its information technology systems were breached by foreign hackers, this is more proof that the department is failing in its responsibilities for storing and safeguarding veterans’ digital files and records,” Miller said. “It’s well past time for VA to come clean about what happened, how it will prevent similar events in the future and what the department is doing to hold those responsible for losing data and misleading the public accountable.”

Sen. Rob Portman from Ohio is also demanding answers from VA on how the incident occurred and what is being done to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

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