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SecurityBreach 02-12

VA security breach

The Department of Veterans Affairs began notifying 1.8 million veterans and doctors Monday that their personal and business information could be on a portable hard drive that has been missing from an Alabama hospital for nearly three weeks.

The hard drive might have contained Social Security numbers and other personal information from about 535,000 individuals and billing information on 1.3 million doctors nationwide, the VA said. That’s more than 37 times more people than authorities initially believed were affected.

An employee at the VA medical center in Birmingham reported the external hard drive missing on Jan. 22. The drive was used to back up information on the employee’s office computer. It might have contained data from research projects, the department said.

U.S. Rep. Arthur Davis questioned why it took the agency so long to begin sending out notification letters. "I certainly understand that the VA wanted to get a handle on the facts. But it became very apparent very early on that they had a breach of security," said Davis, a Democrat from Birmingham.

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