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(Washington D.C.) – Today, at a Senate press conference focused on the latest revelations in the Veterans Administration data security breach, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) blasted the VA for the pattern of incompetence that it has exhibited in the handling of its own security failures. Senator Murray's remarks come just one day after the VA announced that information pertaining to 2.2 million active duty service members, National Guard, and reservists was included in the stolen data set.

Senator Murray was joined by her colleagues Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) who also voiced their disapproval of the VA, and demanded immediate answers for veterans and their families.

Senator Murray's remarks follow:

I am appalled at the pattern of incompetence and negligence at an agency that is supposed to be an advocate for those who have served our country. The Veterans Administration was warned time and again about the lack of protection for veterans’ sensitive health care and benefits information. Yet, the VA seems to have turned a deaf ear to these warnings, and our veterans are paying the price.

Yesterday, over a month after the theft, the VA revealed that 1.1 million active duty service members have had their identity information compromised. Eighty percent of all active duty service members and members of our National Guard and Reserve, whose families are already struggling under the burden of their service, have had their identity information compromised.

This is a disaster. Our phones are ringing off the hook with veterans who are worried that their privacy has been violated and who are losing faith in the VA. We have the families of soldiers, who are already struggling with their family members away from home, that are now being burdened with the worry that they may be victims of identity theft or other crimes. We have 85 year old veterans who don’t know the first thing about credit checks being told that their identity may be compromised. They don’t know what to do.

And only now, a month after the theft, and two weeks after the Secretary himself sat in front of Committees in both houses of Congress are we learning the truth.

The VA must find a way to provide all the assistance our veterans need to give them the peace of mind they deserve. America’s veterans already face problems getting the healthcare they have earned. They are waiting in line because we haven’t adequately funded our Veteran’s Administration.

I was shocked to see an article in the Psychiatric News just a few weeks ago that says that our veterans are not getting the help they need for mental health care and substance abuse. I want to quote, Frances Murphy, M.D., Undersecretary for Health Policy Coordination at the Department of Veterans Affairs, who said that "the growing numbers of veterans seeking mental health care has put emphasis on areas in which improvement is needed." And she also noted that some VA clinics do not provide mental health or substance abuse care, or if they do, "waiting lists render that care virtually inaccessible." And now active-duty service members, veterans, and their families have to worry that their personal information was stolen and could be used by criminals to destroy their credit. I want to make sure that our veterans don’t have a double whammy of not only losing their records but then also being denied services because the costs aren’t covered.

How are we going to make sure that every one of these veterans gets the care that they need, and how are we going to make sure now that twenty-six and a half million veterans get the help they need? That’s going to cost money. It is not free. We have a responsibility to help every single one of them.

They should not be treated like this as veterans in the United States today. Those who serve us in the military deserve the peace of mind that their information is protected and their families are safe. This Administration has a lot of work to do to win back the trust it has squandered.