The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) were ordered to work together in order to create a joint health IT interagency office. The aim of this office was to increase the speed at which electronic health records (EHRs) for active duty soldiers as well as veterans can be exchanged between the agencies through a single point of access. Streamlining access to these files would likely improve the speed at which veterans disability claims are processed and help to eliminate the VA’s claim backlog.
That order was given 3 years ago and the office has yet to be completed. The entire project has come to a complete standstill, and the blame rests with both agencies.
Three specific issues arose, which caused the office’s development to stall out:
- a complete lack of leadership;
- severe understaffing; and
- bureaucratic fighting between the VA and the DoD.
Both departments, however, have had enough and are vowing to get back on track. Last March both the DoD and the VA came to an understanding as to what they would be creating. It was agreed upon by both agencies their goal is to “create a single electronic health record with compatible data, user interfaces and a common data center.”
Having established a goal, the agencies jointly appointed a new director for the project. Within weeks, the departments plan to improve the joint program’s charter, which will reveal the cooperative approach to health information technology both departments plan on following to meet their goal.
Both departments have been stubbornly refusing to let go of their respectful “authority to the office.” Of the 22 positions needed to properly manage the joint office, only 8 have been filled. The newly developed resolution between the two departments may be too little, too late, however.
Rep. Joe Donnelly (R-Ind) recently introduced the Ensuring Servicemembers Electronic Records Viability Act (HR 2470). If this bill passes, control of the EHRs would belong to neither the VA nor the DoD, but rather would rest solely with the interagency office. Both the DoD and the VA oppose that measure, which may be up for vote by early September.
If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, a South Florida disability attorney from Veterans Help Group is ready to help. To learn if you are entitled to certain programs and benefits contact our veterans disability rights firm today – 1-855-855-8992.