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FCW : May 30, 2013
14 May 30, 2013 FCW.COM 125 days was 613,469, while the total number of pension and entitlement claims was 886,345. In recent months, lawmakers on Capitol Hill, GAO and veterans groups have condemned the bottlenecks, which VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has repeatedly said are a top priority. "For years, VA has struggled with an increasing workload of disability com- pensation claims," a December 2012 GAO report states. The department is "currently taking steps to improve the timeliness of claims and appeals processing; however, prospects for improvement remain uncertain." In his April testimony on the scal 2014 budget proposal, Shinseki said his agency "remains focused on eliminat- ing the disability claims backlog in 2015 and processing all claims within 125 days at a 98 percent accuracy level." Even larger questions surround the joint health records effort between VA and DOD. The White House s pro- posed budget for scal 2014 seeks $344 million for the Integrated Electronic Health Record (iEHR), which includes $252 million for development via the VA/DOD Interagency Program Of ce. The iEHR program is designed to achieve a single, integrated platform for sharing health information between the two largest federal agencies, but it stalled in February following a shift in strategy announced by Shinseki and then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Shinseki testi ed before Congress that VA would move forward with iEHR, but Pentagon of cials said they are reviewing their approach. "Until I get my arms around this, I m not going to spend any more money on this," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told lawmakers on April 16. One of the biggest issues is DOD s reluctance to use VA s Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture as iEHR s core IT plat- form. VistA is an internally developed system that dates back to the 1980s. However, DOD also wants to do away with its own system, called AHLTA. DOD was set to release a request for proposals for a replacement in March, but Hagel halted the RFP pending fur- ther review. The problems with the iEHR pro- gram --- already a failure to some --- did not come as a surprise to VA insiders, who believe their agency attempted to talk the talk with DOD but could not afford to walk the walk. "The iEHR demise was expected by all, accordingly," one VA source said. DOD of cials "outspend, outtalk and outlast us at every engagement. We try to emulate much of their process-based decision-making as if we could afford to. We can t. The overhead is crippling, and we are not funded equivalently." Org chart challenges The problems with those programs go beyond IT, but both show signs of the organizational challenges that have been identi ed elsewhere. The December 2012 Deloitte study, reportedly commissioned by acting assistant secretary for information and technology and acting CIO Ste- phen Warren, found several trouble zones in VA s OIT. Among them are a disconnect between facility staff and leadership, low data quality, a poor organizational structure that leads to inef cient resource deployment, duplicative functions across multiple organizational pillars, no standardized processes or supporting technology, a The problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs are drawing attention far beyond the federal IT community. MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show" reported on the leadership churn, "The Daily Show" has mocked the delays and stacks of paper records, and 67 senators have written to President Barack Obama asking him to intervene and address the claims backlog. What's wrong at VA?
May 15, 2013
June 15, 2013