A House Appropriations Military Construction bill includes $1.6 billion in funding to continue the VA EHR modernization project.
By Kate Monica
May 13, 2019 – The House Appropriations Military Construction bill for 2020 will allot $1.6 billion to the VA EHR modernization project, up from $1.1 billion in 2019.
VA’s new EHR system will be built on a Cerner platform to enable seamless health data exchange with the Department of Defense (DoD), which uses the Cerner-supported MHS GENESIS system.
“The bill contains $1.6 billion to continue implementation of the VA electronic health record system,” wrote the House Appropriations committee. “This will ensure the implementation of the contract creating an electronic record system for VA that will be interoperable with the system being developed for DOD.”
“These two identical systems will ensure our veterans get proper care, with timely and accurate medical data transferred between the VA, DOD, and the private sector,” the committee continued. “The bill also continues GAO oversight of this program to ensure that the EHR system is implemented in timely manner.”
VA signed the $10 billion EHR implementation contract with Cerner to replace its homegrown legacy VistA system in 2018.
In addition to enabling interoperability with DoD, VA plans to continually add new capabilities and EHR functionality to the Cerner system to ensure veterans, VA care providers, and community care providers have access to all health IT tools necessary to deliver high-quality care in an ever-evolving digitized healthcare system.
“This bill honors our commitment to the men and women in our armed services, to our veterans, and to the tens of thousands of military families who sacrifice every day for our nation,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey.
“We are also upholding our promise to America’s veterans by increasing funding for key priorities including healthcare access for women veterans, suicide prevention, benefits, and homeless assistance, so that those who served receive the care and resources they have more than earned,” Lowey continued.
The 2020 appropriations bill will also put $1.5 billion toward military family housing construction and maintenance and $80.4 billion toward VA medical care.
“This bill provides robust funding to support and improve the quality of life for servicemembers and their families, and continues the fight against Russian aggression and emerging threats in the Middle East and North Africa,” said House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
The bill also highlights the need for increased oversight and accountability over DoD and VA spending.
“Several provisions are included to keep these agencies on track and to address problems that have wasted money and hurt critical services,” wrote the committee.
Improving oversight throughout the VA EHR modernization process is top of mind among several policymakers as the project continues.
In April, Senators John Tester (D-MT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced a bill intended to establish a third-party oversight committee to monitor the EHR modernization project.
The VA Electronic Health Record Advisory Committee Act is designed to help VA maintain transparency and stay on task as it carries out its $16 billion commercial EHR implementation.
“The new electronic health record system is too important to veterans’ health care for the VA to get wrong,” said Tester, ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Our bill will create another layer of accountability and oversight of the process to make sure the VA roll-out does right by the nine million veterans who will rely on this system.”
The oversight committee would include 11 members who would operate separately from VA and DoD. Committee members would include medical professionals, IT and interoperability specialists, and veterans currently receiving care through VA.