VA holds personally identifiable information (PII) and protected health information (PHI) for nearly 9 million Veterans, and we take that very seriously. We know that this sensitive information holds the key to the livelihood and well-being for those that have given so much to this country. Information security and privacy are top priorities for VA, and our employees treat protecting Veteran information as both a professional and personal concern.
Professionally, we realize that safeguarding Veterans’ personal information and privacy is critical to providing quality customer service. VA sponsors mandatory annual information security and privacy trainings, related educational events, monthly messages on security and privacy topics, and an annual Information Security and Privacy Awareness week. Topics covered include everything from how to email, mail, or fax sensitive information, to common signs of phishing scams and the correct way to report a potential security or privacy incident. Throughout all of the educational activities that VA utilizes, the underlying key message is clear: information security is a responsibility of each and every VA employee and contractor. VA has robust cybersecurity controls in place to protect Veteran information from external threats, but internally, we are “all hands on deck” to keep that data out of harm’s way.
VA employees also have a personal connection to VA information security and privacy. About 120,000 Veterans work at VA, and 52% of IT security employees are Veterans. Many more have family members or close friends who have served. VA employees feel personally invested in protecting Veterans’ sensitive information and privacy; it’s not just about keeping faceless numbers safe – it’s about protecting our extended family. VA employees handle Veteran information like they would their own.
VA has and will continue to ensure that every single VA employee and contractor is highly trained to handle sensitive information in a secure manner. We understand that the stakes are high, and that even the smallest indiscretion can have major consequences. Information security is part of the VA mission – to serve those who have served us – and we are endlessly dedicated to fulfilling that mission.
Kai Fawn Miller is the strategic communications director in VA’s Office of Information and Technology.