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VA Data Loss Worse Than Expected

A bad situation just got worse, according to wire reports

Hirings and firings continued at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday. New information revealed that the agency lost even more data than originally reported. (See VA Reports Massive Data Theft.)

The VA said it has "begun implementing the procedures necessary" to dismiss the data analyst who violated policy by taking home the records, which contained the names, Social Security numbers, and birthdates of some 26.5 million veterans and some of their spouses. The VA is also making some changes at the top, and has hired a new IT security adviser.

While the VA reshuffled its staff, the Associated Press reported Wednesday that it has obtained three internal VA memos indicating the data loss went beyond names, Social Security numbers, and birthdates. The exposed files also included phone numbers, addresses, and some disability rating information.

The memos show that a file containing 6,744 records pertaining to "mustard gas veterans" -- those who participated in chemical testing programs during World War II -- was breached, the AP said. Likewise, a "short file" with as many as 10 diagnostic codes indicating a veteran's disability was stolen.

Michael McLendon, VA deputy assistant secretary, resigned Tuesday as a result of the theft. The unnamed data analyst, who reported to McLendon, will be dismissed. Dennis Duffy, the acting head of the division where the analyst worked, has been placed on administrative leave. (See Analyst: VA Data Loss No Surprise.)

Patrick Dunne has been nominated for the position of assistant secretary to the VA. In the meantime, the VA said, Assistant General Counsel for Management and Operations Paul Hutter will temporarily lead the division. (See VA Secretary Comes Under Fire at Hearings.)

In addition, the VA reported yesterday that it has hired Richard Romley for the new position of Special Advisor for Information Security at the VA. Romley, formerly an attorney for Maricopa County, Ariz., will be responsible for evaluating the current state of the VA's IT security procedures and processes, and developing recommendations for improving them. Romley, a decorated Marine veteran, prosecuted "AzScam," the largest public corruption case in Arizona's history.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading