Air Force

Veteran's Disability Payments Compromised in Cyber Attack

Peter Kelly last wore a United States Air Force uniform in the mid-1980s, but his time in the service has had a lasting impact. He started as a behavioral science specialist before entering the private health care field to work with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.

“I think veterans should be proud of who they are what they did,” Kelly said.

However, Kelly said his time in the Air Force was marred by witnessing several traumatic events. He also said it was his job to perform psychological testing to determine who was gay so the military could start the discharge process.

“Me, thinking, oh my gosh, I’m gay, and now I’m kicking people out,” Kelly said. “So there’s a lot of guilt involved.”

Kelly said he was later diagnosed with major depression and cognitive deficits. He now attends a weekly gay support group at Hines VA.

In recent years, Kelly was approved to receive government disability payments. His funds, which he called his “lifeline”, were loaded on to a debit card.

“I was so happy about that because I felt like I was a burden on the whole world,” Kelly said. “I was more used to being independent.”

Still a proud veteran, Kelly chose to show his support last year by purchasing an Air Force license plate frame from an online company. He used his disability debit card to pay for it, but last December he noticed his account was nearly wiped out.

Kelly learned that someone had obtained his payment information to order $13,479 worth of items, including jewelry, shoes and dozens of pizzas.

“The day that I found out that that had happened to me, I mean, my heart was crushed,” Kelly said.

Kelly closed his disability debit card account and filed a claim. He also transferred his disability payments to a traditional bank account. Kelly also received a letter in January from the online company that sold the license plate frame, saying they were victims of a cyberattack and warning that the security of his payment information could be at risk.

Months later, however, Kelly said he still had not received an update on his claim. He said every time he contacted the card reseller, he could not get through to an investigator.

NBC 5 Responds contacted the Social Security Administration, which handles disability payments, However, the agency said identity theft was not within its purview.

But after NBC 5 Responds reached out to card reseller SVM, a representative immediately checked into Kelly’s claim. According to SVM, the claim was legitimate but had fallen through the cracks and should have been resolved earlier this year.

The card reseller then mailed Kelly a check for $13,479.

“I’m really happy to at least have that buffer to have back there in case there’s an emergency or something,” Kelly said.

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