18,000 pay statements sent to wrong addresses

By William H. McMichael - Staff writer

Posted : Thursday Jan 14, 2010 13:39:57 EST

Pay statements containing names and sensitive information about the finances of about 18,000 recipients of a special pay for disabled retirees were sent to wrong addressees last week, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service said Jan. 14.

The statements, a page of which contained information about annual increases in Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay, mistakenly listed data including at least a portion of another recipientís name, their bank or insurance company name, the amount of their allotment and the allotment type, DFAS spokesman Steve Burghardt said.

DFAS said there is "no indication" that any Social Security numbers, bank account numbers or phone numbers were listed on the erroneously mailed pages, which resulted from a production malfunction at the Defense Departmentís Document Automation and Production Service, which printed the statements on behalf of DFAS.

DFAS is asking recipients of the misprinted statements, all of whom live in the Norfolk, Va., area, to destroy them and says corrected forms will be reissued.

The error occurred when the DAPS document duplicating system malfunctioned during the Dec. 28 printing of one file containing the statements, DFAS said. The malfunction was repaired, but upon restarting the print run, the data streams, containing information for the front and back of the statement forms, were no longer correctly synchronized.

The statements were mailed by a DFAS vendor beginning on Jan. 6, officials said.

"Maintaining the privacy of customers is of the utmost importance to DAPS and DFAS who proudly serve our nationís military personnel," DFAS said in a statement. "Both organizations regret the error and will work to ensure quality control procedures are improved and followed."

Lost data has in recent years been a persistent problem for the government, both via digital hacking into secure databases and through the physical loss of material contained on laptops, portable hard drives and regular mail.

Most recently, the records of 70 million U.S. military veterans were exposed to potential identity theft last fall when a National Archives and Records Administration hard drive was sent out for repair without being scrubbed.

A July report by the Government Accountability Office found that "persistent weaknesses in information security policies and practices continue to threaten the confidentiality, integrity and availability of critical information and information systems used to support the operations, assets and personnel of most federal agencies."

Military retirees with questions about their accounts should call DFAS at 800-321-1080.