A top House Democrat on Tuesday called on the government to assist up to 26.5 million military personnel whose personal information was stolen, uttering obscenities to say Veterans Affairs officials weren't doing enough.
Rep. Bob Filner, the acting top Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, appeared at a news briefing outside the VA building to criticize the agency's three-week delay in publicizing the May 3 burglary at a VA data analyst's home.
Two VA officials — Assistant Veterans Affairs Secretary Lisette Mondello and spokesman Matt Burns — also appeared and called the briefing a "publicity stunt," leading to Filner's blunt commentary.
"You guys f----- it up," Filner declared. "Stop covering your a-- and figure it out."
The California Democrat said millions of military personnel are "scared to death" that their identities might be stolen.
Mondello and Burns afterward declined to comment on Filner's remarks, saying only that they were embarrassed that reporters had to "witness a distinguished lawmaker act in such a reprehensible manner."
Earlier in the briefing, Democrats called anew for free credit monitoring for military personnel.
More than 150 Democrats led by Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., last week called on President Bush to request new emergency funding to provide the financial protection. The White House has said it was reviewing the request.
They also delivered thousands of envelopes to the VA, noting that VA Secretary Jim Nicholson last month cited difficulties in notifying veterans and military personnel right away due in part to the number of envelopes required.
On Tuesday, the VA said it had notified last week by letter about 16.5 million of the 26.5 military personnel. Of the remaining 10 million, about 8 million could not be located because only their names — and not their Social Security numbers — were disclosed in the data files. Another 2 million appeared to be duplicates or had incorrect addresses, the agency said.
The Pentagon also has said it was notifying about 2.2 million active-duty military, Guard and Reserve personnel affected by the burglary through their monthly pay statements.
Veterans groups have criticized the VA for a three-week delay in publicizing the burglary. The VA initially disclosed the burglary May 22, saying it involved the names, birth dates and Social Security numbers — and in some cases, disability codes — of veterans discharged since 1975.
Since then, it has acknowledged in a series of disclosures that the data is believed to include active-duty members as well as phone numbers and addresses of some of the veterans. An investigation by local police, FBI and the VA inspector general is continuing.
There have been no reports of identity theft stemming from the burglary. In hearings last week, Nicholson said local police believed the burglars were not specifically targeting the sensitive data. He noted that recent crimes in the area involved young thieves who stole computer equipment from homes, cleaned out the data and then sold them on college campuses and high schools.