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By Leo Shane III
Military Times Staff writer
Oct. 23, 2014 - 12:03PM

Only about one in 25 veterans offered free credit monitoring in the wake of Veterans Affairs Department security breaches has signed up for the service, a figure that VA officials call disappointingly low.

Nearly 1 million veterans have had their personal information potentially compromised over the last seven years, a total that officials call upsetting but insist sits well below comparable private-sector security breaches.

Most of those incidents involve employees printing veterans’ personal data and failing to maintain a close hold on that paperwork. In the latest breach, about 2,200 veterans were notified by South Carolina officials that four boxes of medical records were reported missing from a Columbia VA facility.

Free financial monitoring is offered for every such breach, even if no evidence of theft or abuse is found. Still, few veterans take up the offer, which involves contacting VA’s office of technology and requesting a free report from one of the three national credit bureaus.

The number of veterans taking advantage of that credit monitoring “is not as high as it needs to be,” VA’s Chief Information Officer Stephen Warren said in a roundtable with reporters Tuesday. “So we’ve reached out to [veterans service organizations]. The reason we’re offering it is because somewhere within the VA, someone made a mistake.

“When you get that offer of credit monitoring, take it. It’s something you need to do.”

Warren worries that many veterans have misinterpreted credit warning alerts from VA, and think they’ll have to pay for the financial check-ups. He also said that since none of the breaches has resulted in identity theft so far, some veterans may assume the monitoring is unneeded.

“We think it’s important for them to use it,” he said. “We just want to make sure they take advantage of the opportunity.”

Additional information on VA credit monitoring services is available at www.va.gov/identitytheft or by calling 1-855-578-5492.