Veterans Affairs Official to Leave Department After Data Theft

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A top Veterans Affairs official criticized after the theft of a laptop containing 26.5 million veterans' sensitive information is leaving to take a job in the private sector, the department said Wednesday.

Tim McClain, the VA's general counsel since 2001, is resigning effective Sept. 1 to pursue unspecified opportunities elsewhere. He is the fifth official to leave the department following the May 3 theft of a laptop from a VA data analyst's suburban Maryland home.

"Tim McClain has been an integral part of VA's senior leadership team as our chief legal adviser, and I commend his dedicated service to our nation's veterans," said VA Secretary Jim Nicholson. "He is a consummate professional, and I wish him continued success in his future endeavors."

In recent weeks, McClain has come under fire by lawmakers of both parties who said he resisted repeated attempts in previous years to centralize authority for information security under the agency's chief information officer.

That lack of authority has been cited by auditors as a primary reason behind security weaknesses in the department that contributed to the May 3 theft, the government's largest information security breach. Nicholson has since ordered that the CIO receive that authority. The stolen laptop and external drive containing veterans' data have been recovered.

In an internal memo to the department, McClain did not say why he was leaving but said his departure came with "mixed feelings."

"I will miss my VA family," he wrote.

Since the May 3 burglary, five officials have departed citing various reasons. They include VA deputy assistant secretary Michael McLendon, who oversaw the data analyst; Dennis Duffy, the acting head of the division in which the employee worked; and Pedro Cadenas, the VA's cybersecurity chief.

Jonathan Perlin, the undersecretary for health whose work in transferring millions of veterans' medical records from paper to computer was recently honored by Harvard University, also announced this month he was leaving to become senior vice president at HCA Inc., a Nashville, Tenn.-based hospital company

The department also is seeking to fire the data analyst, who is challenging the dismissal.