Sunday, June 04, 2006

10: This Just Keeps Getting Worse!"

This just keeps getting worse and worse. Now we have data on 50,000 active dute Navy and National Guard personnel that is on the stolen VA Computer Disks.

This is from CNN:

Active-duty personnel information among data stolen

Saturday, June 3, 2006; Posted: 9:12 p.m. EDT (01:12 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Personal data on up to 50,000 active Navy and National Guard personnel were among those stolen from a Veterans Affairs employee last month, the government said Saturday in a disclosure that goes beyond what VA initially reported.

VA Secretary Jim Nicholson said in a statement that his agency discovered after an internal investigation that the names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth of up to 20,000 National Guard and Reserve personnel who were on at least their second active-duty call-up were "potentially included."

In addition, the same information on up to 30,000 active-duty Navy personnel who completed their first enlistment term prior to 1991 also were believed to stored on the computer laptop and disks stolen from a VA data analyst at his Aspen Hill, Maryland, home on May 3.

The VA has previously said the stolen data involved up to 26.5 million veterans discharged since 1975, as well as some of their spouses; veterans discharged before 1975 also were deemed at risk if they submitted claims to the agency.

"VA continues to conduct a complete and thorough investigation into this incident, and those efforts are providing additional details about the nature of the data that may be involved," Nicholson said.

Veterans groups have criticized the VA for a three-week delay in publicizing the burglary after the May 3 theft. Last week, internal documents obtained by The Associated Press showed that the stolen data in many cases included phone numbers and addresses of veterans, as well as 6,744 records pertaining to "mustard gas veterans" -- or those who participated in chemical testing programs during World War II.

On Saturday, Nicholson said there was no evidence that information for other active-duty personnel had been breached.

He said there have been no reports that the stolen data have been used for identity theft but wanted to alert the public about the VA's findings out of an "abundance of caution" in what has become one of the nation's largest security breaches.

During hearings last month, Nicholson said he was "mad as hell" that employees did not notify him of the burglary until May 16. Since then, the VA has fired the data analyst who lost the data, and his boss, VA deputy assistant secretary Michael McLendon, has stepped down.

The department has also placed Dennis Duffy, the acting head of the division in which the data analyst worked, on administrative leave.

"VA will continue to work with the Department of Defense, other government agencies, members of Congress and other stakeholders to inform and help protect those potentially impacted," Nicholson said.

To paraphrase Bret Maverick, "If you can't trust your own government, who can you trust?" Who in the world is the VA hiring? What an imbecile to take stuff home. I have not heard if he has been fired yet, nor have I heard if he has been arrested for violating security. This just keeps getting worse.

VNVets

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
-- President Abraham Lincoln

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."
--President George Washington

Copyright © 2006: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

09: “BOHICA Alert! The VA Does it Again!”


Now we are getting to know the real VA, the one with overwhelmed and careless staff. Congress expresses its outrage while slicing millions of dollars from their budget. Do not blame the VA for this. Place the blame securely where it belongs: The Congress of the United States.

Here is an article from the Associated Press, complete with mouthings from VA officials trying to downplay the threat. The threat is real. And once again, as it did in the stolen computer data incident, the VA is trying to cover its own butt.

This behavior moves from the top down and is indicative that the VA has been turned into a bureaucracy that functions only to serve itself, and not the Veterans of this nation. Thank you Congress for making the VA into what it is, a non-responsive, overly regulated, dishonestly policied, exclusionary beast from which the Veteran must jump through flaming hoops to get their justly deserved benefits, earned in the service of their nation.

The Article:

Vets Warned of Possible Exposure to Virus
Jun 3, 1:35 AM (ET)
By DINESH RAMDE

MILWAUKEE (AP) - More than 22,000 veterans who underwent prostate biopsies at veterans' hospitals across the country are being warned that improperly sterilized equipment may have exposed them to deadly viruses.

Officials said Friday it was unlikely someone could get infected by the equipment, and no patient is known to have been sickened.

Still, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs decided to offer free blood tests as a precaution after officials in Maine questioned whether the cleaning procedure was thorough enough, said VA spokesman Jim Benson.

The prostate biopsy equipment includes a probe that, if improperly cleaned, could retain traces of body fluids containing the viruses that cause hepatitis or AIDS.

Since April, the VA has alerted patients of potential inadequacies with the biopsy cleaning procedure at 21 medical centers in 18 states, plus Puerto Rico.

So far, about 7,000 vets contacted the VA after receiving the letter and about 2,000 have been tested, Benson said.

"It's too soon to have any information on their test results because each of the potential diseases we might be worried about require not only initial tests but confirmatory tests as well," Benson said. "Right now our first priority is getting information out to every veteran."

Dennis Maki, an infectious disease expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, aid the prostate examination technique involves inserting a stainless steel scope about the diameter of a pencil into the rectum. Then doctors use a hollow needle to draw a sample from the prostate gland.

The standard sterilizing procedure called for the equipment to be flushed with a disinfecting solution, but officials grew concerned that blood and fecal residue might remain unless the tube were physically scrubbed as well.

It's possible but unlikely that someone could get infected that way, said Michael Erdmann, chief of staff of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

"We're concerned for the safety of our patients, but really, the odds are really quite low," he said.

The problem wasn't manpower so much as cleaning instructions provided by the manufacturer that didn't specify the need for a brush, Erdmann said.

The equipment was made by B-K Medical Systems in Denmark. Company officials from neither B-K nor its Massachusetts-based parent company, Analogic, immediately returned phone calls by The Associated Press on Friday.

Michael O'Rourke, a spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he was satisfied with the VA's response. "I don't know what more they can do," he said.

Peter Gaytan, the director of veterans affairs for the American Legion, said his group is reaching out to veterans to make sure the VA has addressed their concerns.

"What the American Legion wants to make sure is that this mistake isn't the responsibility of overworked VA staff, and if it is, they need to hire more people," he said.
---
On the Net:
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:
http://www.va.gov/

This is reprehensible on the part of the agency tasked to provide health care for millions of Veterans who served with the knowledge that the VA would be there for them, and discovered too late that was not the case. And such a lukewarm, tepid response by the American Legion shows how much they truely care. On a national level they have become a political entity, not a non-profit lobbying organization demanding aid for the Veterans from a stingy Congress! Veterans, you have been let down by your service organizations.

The VA Medical system has violated the oldest and most primary rule of medicine: “First, do no harm.”

VNVets

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
-- President Abraham Lincoln

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."
--President George Washington

Copyright © 2006: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.