Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

Veterans Corner

January 29, 2012

VA offering free credit monitoring in wake of mistaken data release

By Jim Vines | jim.helpingveterans@gmail.com

The Department of Veterans Affairs is offering free credit monitoring to more than 2,200 veterans whose personal information, including Social Security numbers, were posted on Ancestry.com following the mistaken release of data through the Freedom of Information Act.

The family history website, which provides access to genealogical and historical information, had requested information from the VA about deceased veterans. Under FOIA, the VA is obligated to release requested records upon written request unless they may be withheld. Therefore, the VA provided the website with the data last March 18.

On Dec. 13, after the information was posted on the history website, the VA learned that it included data about some living veterans, because some of the death reports provided to the website were inaccurate. Fortunately, no personal health information was included in this data release.

There is no indication personally identifiable information of any veteran has been misused. However, the VA is still notifying all potentially affected veterans so they can be vigilant and take steps to protect against identify theft. The VA is also offering credit monitoring for one year at no charge to every veteran whose name was mistakenly released and posted on the history website.

FOIA requires federal agencies to disclose requested records unless they may be withheld under specific statutory exemptions. Under FOIA, the VA was obligated to provide the website with the name, Social Security number, date of birth, date of death, military branch assignments and the dates of entry on active duty and release from active duty for deceased veterans.  

The VA has launched an effort to determine why information about living veterans was included in a database about deceased veterans. The error did not effect the VA benefits of any veteran. The VA is committed to protecting veterans personal information and to improving information processing to avoid erroneous data.

Veterans who believe they may have been affected and have not been notified, can write to, Department of Veterans Affairs, OIT Privacy Officer, 810 Vermont Avenue NW, Washington DC 20420, ATTEN : Garnett Best. Information about this and other protections, including placing a “fraud alert” on credit accounts, is available by calling the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338 or by visiting its website, www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/index.html.

Fewer homeless vets

The Department of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development announces that a new national report shows that homelessness among veterans dropped nearly 12 percent between January 2010 and January 2011. The decline keeps the Obama administration on track to meet the goal of ending veteran homelessness in 2015.

According to the 2011 supplement to the Annual Homeless Assessment Report, 67,495 veterans were homeless in the United States on a single night in January 2011, a significant reduction from last year’s single night count of 76,329. Since 2009, working with over 4,000 community agencies, the VA and HUD have successfully housed a total of 33,597 veterans to permanent, supportive housing with dedicated case managers and access to high quality VA health care. 

The VA also announced it will make $100 million in grants available to community agencies across the country to prevent nearly 42,000 veterans and their families from falling into homelessness or to quickly return them to stable housing. The funds are offered this year through the VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, a homeless prevention and rapid rehousing program.

The available funds were announced in a message posted in the Federal Register and at the VA’s website www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp. Community organizations interested in applying for funds under this program can use this website and to also to find dates for workshops across the country.

Half on 11

Hoffbrau Steakhouses are offering veterans half-price meals on the 11th of every month. Go to their website and register to have emails from Hoffbrau Steakhouse sent to you personally, http://hoffbrausteaks.com/veterans-discount.

Speak to you again next week.

Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133 in Mineral Wells.

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