Reps. Frank Mrvan, D-Ind., Nancy Mace, R-S.C., Susie Lee, D-Nev., and Andrew Garbarino, R-N.Y., have introduced legislation that aims to strengthen cybersecurity at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and better protect information technology systems and devices used at the agency.

The Strengthening VA Cybersecurity (SVAC) Act of 2022 would require the VA to obtain an independent cybersecurity assessment of its most critical information systems, as well as its cybersecurity posture as a whole.

The bill also would require VA to develop a timeline and budget to fix any weaknesses and deficiencies identified by the independent assessment.

“According to VA officials, in 2020, regrettably 46,000 veterans had their personal information compromised after hackers breached VA’s computer systems,” Rep. Mrvan said in a press release.

“This is unacceptable, and action must be taken to improve VA’s cybersecurity,” he said. “This legislation will move us in the right direction to give VA the tools it needs to effectively protect against new and emerging cybersecurity threats and safeguard our veterans’ personal information.”

“Veterans’ personal information can be appealing targets for foreign adversaries and cybercriminals, making it essential for the VA to engage in long-overdue system upgrades and take proactive steps to mitigate cyber threats. I’m proud to co-sponsor this bill to assess and improve the VA’s cyber preparedness,” Rep. Garbarino said.

The VA is the largest integrated health care network in the United States. However, despite the agency’s large IT budget, it has spent less on cybersecurity in comparison to other Federal agencies, the bill’s sponsors said.

If it becomes law, the bill would help to protect the agency against advanced cybersecurity threats, ransomware, denial of service attacks, insider threats, threats from foreign actors, phishing, credential theft, and other cyber threats.  The measure also would require the VA Secretary to submit a detailed report and plan of implementation to Congress within 120 days of the independent assessment, and require the Government Accountability Office to review the VA’s plan and evaluate if the cost estimates and timelines are realistic.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.