The following is an excerpt from a letter sent to all U.S. Veterans within the past two weeks.

"The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has recently learned that an employee took home electronic data from the VA, which he was not authorized to do and was in violation of established policies. The employee's home was burglarized and this data was stolen. The data contained identifying information including names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth for up to 26.5 million veterans and some spouses, as well as some disability ratings. As a result of this incident, information identifiable with you was potentially exposed to others. It is important to note that the affected data did not include any of VA's electronic health records or any financial information."

There are plenty of disturbing questions that reside within the letter released so far. Why was the information allowed to be taken out of the building? What has happened to the employee who had the information when it was taken?

The biggest question, however, is still unanswered in Washington: What is the government doing to protect not only veterans, but Americans' vital information and to safeguard them from devastating identity theft?

Stolen Social Security numbers, names and birth dates allow criminals easy access to credit information, which can be used to steal from bank and credit card accounts. It affects approximately 9 million people each year and costs billions of dollars in damages. Yet Congress has been slow in addressing this growing problem.

Although consumer groups are pressing Congress to limit access to individuals' personal information and to pass laws punishing those who don't guard that information, lawmakers haven't responded strongly. However, Congress could change all of that now that 26 million veterans have had their personal information accessed by a burglar. They should act now to protect Americans from identity theft and not wait until something else happens.

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