Spokesperson Doug Etter said they have nothing to hide. They made a mistake and are doing everything they can to correct it and make sure it doesn't happen again.
“It’s an isolated incident,” Etter said. “It’s an incident that we regret.”
Back in November, an employee inadvertently sent a list of 993 veterans to the family member and caregiver of a veteran who was looking into nursing homes the VA works with. That list contained veterans' names, their partial social security number, a diagnosis, the nursing home that cared for the veteran, and their disability rating, if applicable. The employee thought the document only included the list of 24 nursing homes the VA works with.
“I think it’s important for people to know that the list did not include the date of birth of any of the veterans,” Etter said.
When it happened, the VA launched an investigation and notified all of the reporting agencies regionally and nationally.
“We want to be open, honest, transparent,” Etter said. “We have nothing to hide. We made a mistake, we’ve owned up to it and we’ve promised to correct that mistake and not let it happen again.”
After that, the Department notified those veterans, as well as the family members of any deceased veterans, explaining what they were going to do to make sure it doesn't happen again.
“We’ve put certain measures in place that are systemic to prevent it, to prevent the human error,” Etter said. “So all of these files are no longer what we call rolling or historic files. They’re also encrypted and restricted. So only a very few number of people can have access to these files. Finally, members of the Department are not allowed to send attachments along with emails.”
As for the veterans whose information has already been compromised…
“We’re sorry that it happened. We regret that it happened. We regret any additional stress that we caused veterans and their families, and we’ve taken these measure to ensure it won’t happened again.”
The Lebanon VA Medical Center could not comment on the current status of that employee.
Veterans or family members, of those deceased that have been affected, are being notified by letter. Impacted Veterans with any concerns or questions can contact the facility’s privacy officer at 1-800-409-8771, ext. 4614 or ext. 5413, for assistance.