The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has agreed to pay €15m ($20m) to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by five veterans’ groups over allegations of lost confidential medical data dating from 2006.

According to US press reports the allegations claimed that the department exposed veterans to possible identity theft as a result of the loss of medical and other personal information contained on a stolen laptop.

Veterans who could prove that they experienced actual harm could receive payments of between $75 and $1,500. VA would donate any funds not paid to veterans to veterans’ charities.

The case involved a laptop and an external drive stolen in 2006 during a burglary at the Maryland home of a VA data analyst who worked for Unisys, a VA subcontractor.

AP press reported the laptop and drive contained the names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, addresses, insurance details and other information related to insurance claims for as many as 26.5m veterans and active-duty service members.

Although later recovered, and despite there being no evidence of improper use of the data, the VA did not inform affected individuals of the data theft for almost three weeks.