Senate Approves Emergency $160 Million
Friday, June 23, 2006
(SNN Washington) Many people consider veterans frightening. They know how to kill, and many of them have. They burn flags. And they can walk among us without notice.
Congress is now taking steps to deal with this problem. A Senate panel today approved a $160 million emergency funding for the tracking of veterans. Meanwhile, a House panel was cautioned that monitoring alone may not be enough.
"The worst-case scenario is that the veteran finds its way to a public distribution source, such as the Internet,'' Mike Cook, a co-founder of a company specializing in data breaches, told the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the $160 million in emergency funds on a 15-13 vote; some Republicans objected because the VA has said it can use existing funds to pay for monitoring. The VA said it would also hire a contractor to do data analysis to help pinpoint activity; the agency, however, did not offer specifics, saying it wanted to see what bids they receive.
Noting "it's not going to be cheap," VA Secretary Jim Nicholson pledged not to take the money from current VA programs. So far, the department has already spent $14 million to set up a call center and notify veterans by letter, and it's spending an additional $200,000 a day to maintain the call center.
Rep. Steve Buyer, chairman of the House panel, said he believed the VA and Congress should consider additional safeguard measures - even if it means costing taxpayers more. "The concern is, are we creating a false expectancy - that if the VA does monitoring, I am safe?" said Buyer, R-Ind. "I still have great fears."
Like the VA, the Agriculture Department has also enacted monitoring programs. Earlier this month, the Health and Human Services Department made a similar announcement about nearly 17,000 Medicare beneficiaries