Bush Wants Funds to Help Veterans Affairs Dept. Protect Identity Theft Victims

President Bush on Wednesday asked Congress for $160.5 million in emergency funds to help veterans and military personnel whose personal information was on a laptop computer stolen from a Veterans Affairs employee.

In a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Bush said he was asking for the additional money to help the VA cover the increased costs caused by the May 3 theft. The money would help provide credit monitoring and fraud watch services for those affected.

VA Secretary Jim Nicholson told lawmakers on Tuesday that the money would cover monitoring for about half of the 17.5 million people whose Social Security numbers were compromised. He said it also would pay for out-of-pocket expenses ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 for those whose identities are stolen.

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No identity theft has been reported in connection with the theft of a computer from the VA data analyst's home in suburban Maryland. The laptop contained names, birth dates and Social Security numbers for up to 26.5 million people.

Under questioning, Nicholson acknowledged that more money might be needed to revamp information security at the VA and other agencies. He also left the door open to providing veterans more than one year of free credit monitoring.