Class action lawsuit filed on behalf of veterans' info compromis - - Columbia, South Carolina

Class action lawsuit filed on behalf of veterans' whose info compromised by VA laptop theft


A Columbia law firm has filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of two veterans whose personal information was compromised along with that of approximately 7,500 other veterans when an unsecured laptop was stolen from the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center in February.

The complaint, filed on April 12 with the U.S. District Court, District of South Carolina in Columbia, seeks monetary damages for the plaintiffs, Richard G. Beck and Lakreshia R. Jeffery, both residents of Richland County, whose personal and health information was on the laptop.

Because the information was not encrypted or otherwise secured, the threat of identity theft, destruction of credit and health insurance fraud is high, stated a news release from the Mike Kelly Law Group.

The suit cites numerous VA officials in Washington D.C. and in Columbia for their "willful and intentional actions and reckless disregard" for the plaintiffs' privacy.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Dorn VA Medical Center are required to secure personal and health information by federal laws that include the Administrative Procedure Act, the Privacy Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the firm said.

"Like thousands of other U.S. military veterans, Mr. Beck and Ms. Jeffery entrusted their personal information with the VA and the Dorn VA Medical Center, only to have their trust violated and their identities stolen," said attorney Mike Kelly. "Both are distraught that this egregious error was committed and could have easily been avoided had the VA complied with federal laws and accepted standards for protecting sensitive information. As it is, the unprotected personal information was and is accessible and easily copied by anyone in possession of the laptop."

Kelly added, "It is regrettable that the VA has done such a disservice to those who have given their service to our country."

The missing laptop contains veterans' full names, addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, ages, race, and weight, said Kelly. Some files also include confidential medical and disability information. Because the personal information of approximately 7,500 veterans was on the laptop, the number of plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit may swell, the firm said.

This is not the first time veterans' personal information has been compromised or a class action suit filed, the firm said. In 2006, the personal information of 26 million veterans was lost as the result of the disappearance of another laptop. At the time, according to the firm, VA officials promised then that they would take action to ensure that veterans' personal information was safeguarded from loss or theft.

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