Tester pushes VA over ID card security risks

Senator calls on department to better protect veterans’ personal information


(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is calling on the VA to ramp up its outreach to veterans and better protect their personal information in the wake of reports that VA-issued ID cards can accidentally reveal veterans’ Social Security Numbers.


Reports show that scanning the barcode of a Veterans Identification Card (VIC) – easier today with the widespread use of smartphones – exposes the veteran’s Social Security Number.  Tester wants the VA to do more to let veterans know that their personal data could be compromised and to prevent a similar privacy breach in the future. 


“We take very seriously the privacy rights of our veterans and their families,” Tester and Alaska Senator Mark Begich told VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.  “Beyond the warnings posted on its website, what actions has VA taken and what further actions are planned to alert and educate veterans who, through use of their VIC, risk compromising their personal information?”


Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, also asked Shinseki whether the VA knows of any cases of identity theft tied to the use of the ID cards.


Problems with VICs come as the VA deals with the accidental exposure of the personal information of up to 5,000 veterans on its eBenefits website.  Tester wants the VA to provide more information about that data breach and outline the steps it is taking to prevent a similar violation.


In addition to being a leader for Montana veterans, Tester actively fights to protect Montanans’ right to privacy.  He reacted to the President’s speech on government surveillance programs last week by saying that “we need to end the out-of-control surveillance of law-abiding Americans.”


Tester also recently got the VA to overturn its headstone policy at the Yellowstone County Veterans Cemetery so that more Montana veterans would get the “ever-lasting respect they earned.” 


Tester’s letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki on the VIC information breach is available online HERE.