Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) plans to introduce two amendments to the Financial Services & General Government Appropriations Bill, one of which would give federal workers whose personal data were impacted by the two data breaches at the Office of Personnel Management much more identity theft protection than what OPM has offered thus far.
Mikulski’s amendment would provide 10 years and $5 million worth of ID theft insurance to any individual who was affected by either of the two data breaches.
OPM announced that the second of the two breaches impacted 21.5 million individuals, including Social Security numbers, fingerprints, and other personal data related to conducting background checks.
Mikulski released the following statement about her amendments:
I plan to offer two amendments in response to the recent Office of Personnel Management (OPM) data breaches that compromised the personal data of at least 22 million men and women working in government, serving in the military or working as contractors. They are federal employees, retirees, their families and applicants for jobs that require background checks.
Very sensitive information has been stolen – social security numbers, financial data, mental health status and work histories. It’s as outrageous and unacceptable as it is devastating. And it’s permanent. Their vulnerability will not dissipate over time.
One of my amendments would provide additional resources to speed up the completion of scheduled improvements to OPM’s network systems and IT infrastructure one year ahead of schedule. We must secure these systems now – we cannot wait for the next budget cycle to secure the most sensitive data of our government employees and their families.
My other amendment would provide additional protection for the millions of victims of the breaches. The American people are deeply disappointed by the response they’ve seen so far, and so am I. These breaches erode confidence going forward that the federal government will be able to protect federal employees whose personal data has been stolen.
The breaches have hit Maryland harder than other states. We’re home to 20 major federal agencies and more than 300,000 federal employees and retirees. This amendment would be an important step in responding to the breaches and do more to protect the victims by providing longer term credit-monitoring services and increased liability protection for related damages. I will not rest until we get the best protection possible for every person affected and our cyber shields are up and effective.
Two major federal employee unions recently sued OPM over the breaches and have also been insisting upon lifetime identity theft protection for federal workers. It therefore seems unlikely Mikulski’s amendment will be warmly received by the unions since it falls short of this demand. Update: AFGE didn’t mention this in a press release on the amendment, instead only offering praise:
AFGE commends Sen. Barbara Mikulski for introducing these measures, which would significantly enhance protections for employees, retirees and job applicants whose personal information was stolen during the massive OPM data breaches. However, we still believe Congress needs to provide OPM with emergency funds to address the theft of personnel files so agencies aren’t forced to cover the costs out of funds that should be used to serve taxpayers.
Legislation has recently been introduced in both the House and the Senate to provide lifetime identity theft protection to federal employees and retirees. However as of the time of this writing, this bill has not advanced past committee in the Senate. See Legislation Introduced to Provide Free Lifetime ID Protection for Hack Victims for details on this bill.
The spending bill that Mikulski is working to amend also indirectly puts federal employees one step closer towards getting a 1.3% pay raise in 2016. For details on this, see 2016 Pay Raise One Step Closer to Becoming A Reality.