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I-Team: Congress members concerned about lack of response from VA over data breach

Members of Congress say they are not getting answers from the VA about a serious data breach.
March 7, 2014 2:52:02 PM PST
The ABC11 I-Team is digging up new details on a national story we broke earlier this year.

We're talking about the privacy breach at the Department of Veterans Affairs that jeopardized the medical and financial information of thousands of veterans.

The VA has never agreed to an on-camera interview to answer I-Team questions about the data breach.

Now, members of Congress say they're not getting answers either.

Since we broke this story, veterans have been asking us to stay on it, and get answers from the VA on just how bad the breach was, what's being done about it, and whether the department can ensure it won't happen again.

The VA has not answered our questions. We've also learned, they haven't answered many of the same questions from the House Veterans Affairs Committee, which is tasked with getting to the bottom of the problem.

Since June, the committee has sent letters VA Secretary General Eric Shinseki looking for that information. Most recently, they gave the department a Jan. 31 deadline. However, committee members tell us the VA still hasn't responded.

In fact, we're told the committee has 124 outstanding requests to the agency -- 75 of those are more than 60 days old.

Committee members tell us what concerns them most is that the department was warned last summer in an internal memo that a security breach was going to happen if changes weren't made. Earlier this year, that warning came true. What they were worried actually about happened.

House members say they are increasingly frustrated by the VA's lack of transparency. Here's what one committee member told us when we asked what else they can do, beyond sending letters, to get answers from the VA.

"We're doing out due diligence, and we're chasing this down and we're not letting them run," said Rep. Jackie Walorski, (R) Indiana. "The secretary knows our frustrations. He assured me two weeks ago that this is the top of their list. I agree and reminded him that we haven't received answers to any of these questions. This is not fair to the veterans in this nation."

Each time we've asked the VA for an interview on this, since we broke the story on the data breach earlier this year, we've been emailed a similar response.

Most recently being told, "The VA has in place a strong, multi-layered defense to combat evolving cybersecurity threats. The VA is committed to protecting veteran information."

None of the VA's responses have directly addressed that breach of privacy for thousands of vets.

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