The Veterans Affairs Department knowingly disclosed sensitive information on millions of veterans’ doctors, spouses and dependents despite warnings that the practice “could cause those individuals significant harm,” an internal watchdog found.
For more than three years, the Veterans Benefits Administration intentionally stopped redacting names, Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information on third-party individuals in claims records provided to veterans, according to the VA Inspector General. The practice not only left countless people vulnerable to identity theft but it also potentially broke the law, auditors found.
“VBA officials made the decision to stop redacting information that was purposely included in claims files, despite the inherent risks of disclosing third-party [personally identifiable information] in service records,” they said in a report published last week. “The OIG contends that the [policy] could place VBA at legal risk of penalties for Privacy Act violations based on other more recent case law.”
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