In the wake of a missing government laptop at Columbia’s Dorn VA Medical Center, a lawsuit filed in federal court seeks unspecified damages from the Department of Veterans Affairs alleging the laptop contained unencrypted sensitive personal and medical information of more than 7,000 veterans.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Columbia, says that the loss of such data subjects the veterans to possible identity theft and medical insurance abuse, and that such threats will continue to harm the veterans far into the future.
“These vets who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve better,” said Columbia attorney Michael Kelly, one of the lawyers representing the two plaintiffs in the suit.
Efforts to reach a Dorn spokesperson Wednesday were not successful.
The suit says VA officials failed to implement even the most basic computer safeguards, despite a well-known 2006 incident in which more than 17 million veterans’ and spouses’ private information was lost.
The two plaintiffs in the lawsuit are identified as Richard Beck and Lakreshia Jeffery, both described as Richland County residents and citizens honorably discharged who had received pulmonary and cardiovascular treatment or other health care at Dorn.
The laptop computer in question was reported missing in February from a testing lab in the Dorn respiratory therapy department.
In April, Dorn began notifying more than 7,000 veterans who used the medical center that their personal information had gone missing.
In its release, Dorn said the laptop was used in pulmonary testing. It contained identification information on its hard drive on all patients receiving pulmonary function tests on that specific machine from 2006 to present. The data included their names, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, their ages and in some cases, birthdates, weight, race and test results, the news release said.
At that time, Dorn director Rebecca Wiley said, “Any time a veteran’s personal information may be compromised, we take the matter very seriously. We are reaching out to each veteran who may have been impacted.”
Dorn has offered the affected veterans one year of free credit monitoring.