Disks with the personal data of 26.5 million U.S. veterans were stolen from the home of a Veterans Affairs employee, the department announced today.

The data included names, dates of birth and social security numbers of all living veterans who have been discharged since 1976.

The employee, a data analyst, did not have authorization to take home the data, which was stolen this month.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson said the agency has no evidence the burglars have used the data or even know they have it.

The FBI, local law enforcement and the VA inspector general are engaged in a full-scale investigation, according to Nicholson.

“I want to emphasize, there was no medical records of any veteran and no financial information of any veteran that’s been compromised,” he said.

“We have decided that we must exercise an abundance of caution and make sure our veterans are aware of this incident,” he told reporters.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a Vietnam veteran, said in a statement he would introduce a measure requiring the agency to provide credit reports to veterans affected by the theft.

“This is no way to treat those who have worn the uniform of our country,” Kerry said. “Someone needs to be fired, the perpetrators need to be caught and the security system at the VA needs to be massively overhauled.”

The VA said it is notifying the individual veterans and members of Congress about the theft. The agency also has a call center at 1-800-FED-INFO and website for veterans who believe their information has been abused.

Nicholson would not give details of the theft, but congressional sources briefed on the incident say it involved a mid-level career employee who had taken the disks to work on a department project at his suburban Maryland home.

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