The Department of Veterans Affairs saw a 158 percent spike in data breaches in the month of April, with 987 veterans affected by the data breaches—of which almost 75 percent of those incidents involved the exposure of protected health information.

VA reported the 738 PHI-related incidents to the Department of Health and Human Services in accordance with the HITECH Act, according to the agency’s monthly report to Congress.  The department states in its report that it uses a “defense-in-depth” approach to information security and, while this strategy protects data from inbound threats, VA “relies on employees to protect Veteran information they handle and transmit.”

Also See: VA EHR System to Get Major Overhaul

The largest data breach in April involved the Patient Business Office at the VA Long Beach Healthcare System, which mishandled information affecting 300 veterans. The report details how a veteran found medical files dated between 2007 and 2011 in a dumpster which contained some personally identifiable information. The documents were believed to have been accidentally left behind when the office moved and were believed to have been trash.

“There were a total of 358 documents and each one contained the Veteran’s SSN,” states the report. “There is no way to determine if any documents are not accounted for. It has further been verified that 77 of the Veterans are deceased. 229 Veterans will be offered credit protection services and 77 letters will be sent to next of kin.”

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