Troops to get credit safety tips with pay statements
June 16, 2006
WASHINGTON — Troops will receive information on ways to protect their credit record in their upcoming pay statements as part of the Defense Department’s efforts to inform servicemembers about personal data stolen last month.
On May 3, a laptop with the names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of 26.5 million people was stolen from the home of a Department of Veterans Affairs employee. Last week, VA officials announced that 2.2 million active-duty troops, reservists and guardsmen were among those whose data had been compromised.
Investigators said the crime appears to be a random robbery, and there is no evidence the information has been used in any identity theft crimes.
But Pentagon spokesman Col. Jeremy Martin said officials want troops to be prepared.
The specifics of the message have not been finalized, but Martin said they’ll include information on both VA resources and defense contacts for financial advice, including a toll-free number where troops can call for more information.
He did not know when that message will be sent out, but said officials hope to do it as quickly as possible.
VA spokesman Matt Burns said the department has already sent out 16.5 million letters to troops and veterans they’ve identified from the stolen data.
On Tuesday, those mailings drew sharp criticism from Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., who said the plainly marked envelopes and short letters aren’t enough to alert veterans and troops of the seriousness of the data theft.
He also accused VA staff of “covering their [backside] instead of helping veterans,” and attempted to deliver envelopes to their central office, mocking comments by VA Secretary Jim Nicholson last month that the mailings would take time because “right now we can’t even get a hold of 26.5 million envelopes.”
Burns dismissed the comments as “a shameless publicity stunt” and said the department is doing what it can to alert those affected.
The VA has set up a Web site, www.firstgov.gov, to provide information on how to contact credit monitoring agencies and contact department representatives for help.