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Victims of one of the largest data breaches to ever hit the federal government are one step closer to a payout, more than seven years later.
A federal judge on Friday finalized the Office of Personnel Management’s settlement agreement with current and former federal employees, as well as federal job applicants, impacted by a major data breach in 2015.
District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, in a fairness hearing at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said the $63 million settlement for breach victims was “fair, reasonable and adequate.”
Court documents show nearly 20,000 individuals have already signed onto the class-action lawsuit, but individuals breach have until Dec. 23 to submit a claim to join the class-action lawsuit.
The law firm Girard Sharp, which represents plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said in June that the settlement will provide a minimum payment of $700 for individuals who suffered a financial loss as a result of the hack, “even for those with minor expenses.”
Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, called Friday’s court ruling a “significant victory for rank-and-file federal employees.”
“We look forward to continuing to educate our members whose personal information was compromised in this data breach about how they can take part in this settlement and receive the compensation they are due under the law,” Kelley said.
AFGE has emailed about a million potential victims informing them about the class-action lawsuit.
Additionally, plaintiffs have created targeted ads for current and former federal employees on social media, as well as print and radio ads to make them aware of a website about the class-action lawsuit.
Attorney Daniel Girard told Federal News Network in an email that the settlement will pay anyone who suffered an out-of-pocket loss tied to the data breach up to $10,000.
“AFGE should be commended for coming forward to initiate the suit and supporting the process throughout,” Girard said.
Eligible individuals must demonstrate they had their personal information compromised in the data breaches of OPM’s IT system in 2014 and 2015, or the breach of its contractor Peraton’s electronic information systems in 2013 and 2014.
Individuals, in order to receive a settlement award, must also be able to prove they suffered an out-of-pocket expense or lost compensable time as a result of identity theft or trying to protect themselves from identity theft.
The 2015 breach compromised the personally identifiable information (PII) of approximately 22 million current and former federal employees and job applicants.
About 2 million individuals signed up for free credit monitoring services OPM provided to data breach victims.
Among those affected by the breach, 14 individuals filed objections to the settlement.
Among the objections, individuals complained that it was difficult to document their losses more than seven years after first learning about the OPM breach.
The settlement only compensates those who can prove they were financially affected by the breach.
Another said the OPM data breach has caused “lifelong” damage, and that OPM providing free credit monitoring services through September 2026, as mandated by Congress, was insufficient.
Jackson said it “makes sense” that the credit monitoring services should eventually lapse, and that the federal government has done its due diligence in providing these services as long as it has, given the prevalence of data breaches in and out of government since 2015.
Individuals who wish to continue these credit monitoring services beyond the deadline, Jackson said, should do so “for their own peace of mind,” but out of their own pocket.
An OPM spokesperson referred requests for comment to the Justice Department, which did not immediately respond.