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Neb. DHHS Apologizes for Mixing Up Confidential Documents

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It should be one of the happiest times of their lives -- celebrating the birth of their new baby boy -- but instead, David and Tonya McCroden are outraged and looking for answers as to how their personal information ended up in the hands of a Wyoming couple they don't even know, and how they ended up with documents belonging to a teen girl in Iowa.

"It had my name and address on it, but when I opened it, it was information on a girl in Iowa," Tonya McCroden said.

Confidential information, including bank account numbers and court documents.

"It had their application, their check, copies of their driver's license that they had submitted, and then court documents showing that they were the legal guardians for this girl," Tonya McCroden said, "but nothing in there had our name on it -- it was just all their information."

"It was way more information than we should have been looking at," David McCroden said.

It all stems from requests from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services' Vital Records Office.

Hazel Ballard, of Encampment, Wyoming -- a former Nebraska resident -- put in a request to have her driver's license renewed, but received the McCrodens application for their newborn son's birth certificate instead, along with numerous personal documents.

Hazel's husband, Ed, called the McCrodens to let them know their information had been inadvertently sent to them.

"I'm mad as heck about it," Ed Ballard said. "I don't think people like that should be working in vital statistics. Stuffing the wrong information in envelopes and just sending it out -- that's pretty irresponsible."

But it gets worse. The Ballards thought their information was just swapped with the McCrodens, but Hazel Ballard's driver's license actually wasn't sent to the McCrodens. In fact, no one -- including the Department of Health and Human Services -- knows where it ended up.

"There's probably enough information in there to steal her [Hazel Ballard's] identity," Ed Ballard said. "That's pretty scary when that information is floating around out there, and we have no idea where it went or who got it."

"I just really felt that that office could maybe do a little better job of getting that information into the right hands," David McCroden said.

Nebraska State Auditor Mike Foley, who has criticized the agency in the past, says these kinds of mistakes happen all too often.

"It is a deeply troubled agency," he said. "Everywhere you look within that agency, you find deficiencies and problems. Human error can happen anywhere, but you have to have the processes in place to minimize these kinds of situations, and unfortunately, the Department of Health and Human Services makes a lot of these kinds of errors."

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services declined a phone interview with NTV News, but Leah Bucco–White, a spokesperson for the agency, sent us this statement:

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"We certainly understand the concerns of the people affected, and we sincerely apologize for the error. We take our responsibility to ensure confidentiality very seriously. We're currently reviewing our processes to see what modifications may be needed."

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