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US Congress may compensate ID theft vets

WASHINGTON, June 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. Congress is moving towards compensating U.S. military veterans whose data was stolen in a recent theft.

The Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives took a step Wednesday toward compensating veterans who might be victims of identity theft because of the loss of millions of Veterans Affairs Department personnel records, CongressDaily reported Thursday.

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On a voice vote, the committee approved the legislation, clearing the way for likely House approval next week. The bill was in response to the theft of a laptop computer reportedly holding the files of 26.5 million veterans from the Maryland home of a Veteran Affairs employee.

An Office of Veterans Identity Protection Claims would be established to process claims of veterans who might have their identities stolen by thieves who steal money or run up credit card bills, the report said.

Democrats complained the legislation was not strong enough. It is a "half-hearted way" to address the problem, said Judiciary ranking member John Conyers, D-Mich. He said the bill "tells 26.5 million veterans to deal with the problem themselves." The bill sets up a system of filing claims that might require hiring an attorney, CongressDaily said.

A Conyers substitute that would require the VA to provide numerous services, including credit monitoring and fraud alerts, was ruled out of order by Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., on grounds it interfered with the jurisdiction of the House Financial Affairs Committee.

An amendment by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., for a $2 million per year authorization for five years for a Justice Department probe of the computer file theft was accepted on a voice vote.

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