VA eBenefits defect leaks vet info online

A software glitch on an online U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs portal exposed the personal information of veterans to anyone who could log onto the system, according to VA officials.

The patient portal, called the eBenefits system, had to be shut down and brought back online due to the glitch, the Washington Post reported. In a statement Tuesday, the VA said that it "conducted a full review of the software issue and reinforced its security posture, after determining that the defect had been remedied and the portal was functioning properly."

FedScoop first reported the breach last Friday, obtaining an internal VA memo that says about 20 veterans contacted the agency before the glitch was fixed to say they could see other users' information when logged onto the site.

"Veteran A was able to access any of the information available in eBenefits for Veteran B, but it is unknown if Veteran A moved past the initial welcome page," the memo said. "VA IT specialists are investigating whether or not logs can be pulled showing which pages were accessed.  Approximately 10,000 users logged in to eBenefits on Jan. 15 so IT specialists are investigating in attempt to narrow the time frame of when the incident began and ended."

The VA introduced eBenefits--which aims to enable quicker processing of disability compensation claims--last summer, and urged veterans and their representatives to use it to get speedier decisions to help reduce the backlog of claims. The system is used by both the VA and the U.S. Department of Defense. 

Thomas Murphy, director of the VA Compensation and Pension Service, said at a hearing of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in June that the agency has made "significant progress" in trying to work through its backlog of more than 800,000 disability claims.

To learn more:
- read the Washington Post article
- read the FedScoop article

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