[HEALTH.MIL] Class Action Suit Seeks $4.9 Billion in Damages from TRICARE Data Theft

  • From: HEALTH.MIL Mailing List
  • To: <HEALTH.MIL@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <TFL@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 14 Oct 2011 14:55:35 -0500

Class Action Suit Seeks $4.9 Billion In Damages From TRICARE Data Theft
By Bob Brewin 10/13/2011

An Air Force veteran of the first Iraq war and a military spouse and her two
children have hit the Defense Department with a class action lawsuit seeking
$4.9 billion in damages from the theft of a computer tape containing personal
and sensitive health information from the car of an employee of Science
Applications International Corp., a contractor with the TRICARE Health
Management Activity. The company was not named as a defendant in the action.

The suit, filed Monday by the law firm Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker of
Potomac, Md., seeks $1,000 in damages for all 4.9 million TRICARE beneficiaries
whose records were on the computer tape stolen Sept. 13 from the SAIC employee's
car in San Antonio. TRICARE and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta are named as

Plaintiffs in the case are Virginia Gaffney of Hampton, Va., a TRICARE
beneficiary described as the spouse of a decorated war veteran, along with her
two dependent children, and Adrienne Taylor of Glendale, Ariz., an Air Force
Operation Desert Storm veteran who also is a military spouse and TRICARE

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, charges
that TRICARE "flagrantly disregarded" the privacy rights of TRICARE
beneficiaries by failing to take the necessary precautions to protect their
identity. The complaint said data on the stolen computer tape was "unprotected,
easily copied . . . [and TRICARE] inexplicably failed to encrypt the

TRICARE "compounded its dereliction of duty by authorizing an untrained or
improperly trained individual to take the highly confidential information off of
government premises and to leave unencrypted information in an unguarded car in
a public location, from which it was stolen by an unknown party or parties," the
suit alleged.

The "intentional, willful and reckless disregard of plaintiffs' privacy rights
caused one of the largest unauthorized disclosures of Social Security numbers,
medical records and other private information in recent history," the complaint

TRICARE has acknowledged that the stolen computer tape contained a wealth of
patient information including clinical notes, laboratory tests, prescriptions,
diagnoses, treatment information, and provider names and locations.

But, when it announced the theft -- which it called a "data breach" -- on Sept.
30, TRICARE downplayed the ability of anyone to access the information on the
tape. "The risk of harm to patients is judged to be low despite the data
elements involved since retrieving the data on the tapes would require knowledge
of and access to specific hardware and software and knowledge of the system and
data structure," the military health program said.

The class action lawsuit disputed this assertion, alleging that "personal
information on the computer tape could be retrieved by the name of an individual
or by an identifying number, symbol or other identifying data assigned to an

The theft of the computer tape, the complaint charged, has exposed the medical
and personal information of all four plaintiffs to the possibility of identity
fraud and resulted in "emotional upset" due to the invasion of privacy.

TRICARE declined to provide credit monitoring services in the wake of the tape
theft, and, as a result, the complaint said, both Gaffney and Taylor purchased
such services on their own to protect against identity theft, incurring an
ongoing economic cost.

The lawsuit asked the court to direct TRICARE to provide free credit monitoring
services to all 4.9 million beneficiaries whose personal information was on the
stolen tape and to reimburse those who had already purchased such services on
their own.

This could slam TRICARE with another hefty bill. When the Veterans Affairs
Department discovers a loss, theft or exposure of this kind it routinely offers
credit monitoring services and up to $1 million annually in identity theft
protection at a cost per veteran of $29.95 a year. At that rate, it would cost
TRICARE $146.8 million to provide credit monitoring services to 4.9 million

Shulman, Rogers also wants to use the lawsuit to reform what it considers poor
practices by Defense and TRICARE to maintain the privacy of personal
information. Defense and TRICARE, the suit said, "have repeatedly demonstrated
an inability or unwillingness to implement or [have a] callous disregard for
fundamental procedures to provide minimally acceptable safeguards to prevent
against the disclosure of personal and private information in their possession."

The suit asks the court to bar TRICARE and Defense from transferring a record or
system of records covered by the Privacy Act "until an independent panel of
experts finds that adequate information security has been established."

The court also should prohibit Defense and TRICARE from transporting any records
off government property unless they are fully encrypted, and SAIC should not be
allowed to transport any records until an independent expert panel determines
the company has established adequate information procedures, the lawsuit said.

TRICARE and SAIC declined to comment on the lawsuit.

SOURCE:  NextGov News Article at
Army Stand-To! Newsletter (14 October 11) at http://www.army.mil/standto/
Army Times Article at

== HEALTH.MIL Mailing List ==

1.  The following options may be used to join\leave this mailing list:

    a.  ONLINE OPTION:  Online subscription\unsubscription options are 
available at:


    b.  E-MAIL OPTION:  Subscription\unsubscription may be performed by sending 
an E-Mail message to the following address:

        (1)  To subscribe to this mailing list, send an E-Mail message to 
HEALTH.MIL-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with 'subscribe' as the subject.

        (2)  To unsubscribe, send an E-Mail message to 
HEALTH.MIL-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with 'unsubscribe' as the subject.

2.  If the above subscribe or unsubscribe procedures don't work or if you have 
questions, comments, etc., about this mailing list, please contact 

Other related posts:

  • » [HEALTH.MIL] Class Action Suit Seeks $4.9 Billion in Damages from TRICARE Data Theft - HEALTH . MIL Mailing List