You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Congress unhappy with DoD, VA health records progress

Apr. 16, 2014 - 11:22AM   |  
  • Filed Under

House lawmakers plan to hold back millions in dollars of technology funding from Defense and Veterans Affairs department planners until Congress is convinced they are making progress on developing a way to share electronic medical records.

At an April 9 hearing, members of the House Appropriations Committee approved a fiscal 2015 budget plan that would hold back 75 percent of VA’s requested record system upgrade funds, contingent on the two departments proving that they are close to a seamless medical record system for troops and veterans.

Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, chair of the committee’s military construction and veterans affairs panel, said that similar language is planned for the defense appropriations and defense authorization bills set for May. Pentagon planners won’t get their full technology request until lawmakers are satisfied they’re addressing the shared records issue.

“If they want their money, they’re going to have to earn it,” he said.

Frustration with the military/veterans records systems has been rising on Capitol Hill since early 2013, when department leaders announced they would abandon plans for a single system that could track individuals from boot camp through their VA care. The price tag for that effort would have approached $30 billion.

But lawmakers noted that the departments had already spent more than $1 billion and several years on the joint system before changing plans, calling into question whether a seamless lifetime military medical record would ever be possible.

Defense and VA officials have repeatedly worked to assure Congress that the departments already are sharing significant amounts of medical information, including a common display format for basics like patient prescriptions, past physician visits and check-up information.

Pentagon officials have promised that having a separate records system from the VA won’t prevent them from sharing files seamlessly. Military medical officials are in the process of seeking proposals for a new multibillion-dollar records system, one that may include elements of the existing VA system.

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., blamed most of the confusion surrounding the issue on the Pentagon’s “unwillingness” to adopt the established VA records system, but said he’s hopeful the withheld funding plan can force a change.

President Obama promised lifetime electronic medical records for service members back in 2009, as part of a host of promised reforms to veterans services. Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr., D-Ga., said that after years of frustration, he hopes the funding plans “have finally gotten the two departments’ attention, and I expect to see some real progress on this soon.”

The House budget proposal for VA would provide about $65 billion in discretionary funding in fiscal 2015, about $1.5 billion above this fiscal year but about $400 million less than what administration officials had requested.

That would include about $173 million in funding to continue work on the department’s Veterans Benefits Management System and $20 million more for digitizing veterans’ paper medical records.

Officials said those funds are needed to help VA stay on track with the plan to eliminate its disability benefits claims backlog in 2015.

Answers by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In News

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.

This Week's Army Times

This Week's Army Times

CrossFit vs. unit PT
Troops will do the training plans in a $2.5 million study

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook