The chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House veterans' committees today faulted the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs for backing off plans to create a single computer system to integrate electronic medical records for troops and veterans.
Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said: "I am deeply disappointed by the VA and Defense Department decision to back away from a commitment to develop and implement a truly integrated, single, electronic health record. President Obama charged the departments with creating a seamless system of integration so that service members transitioning from active duty to civilian life don't have to worry about whether their health records will be lost or their claims delayed. An integrated record would allow for a streamlined and timely claims process, faster decisions on benefits, less duplication in medical testing and more efficient, cost-effective treatment for both physical and mental health needs. Now more than ever we need greater cooperation between the departments to solve the serious challenges that continue to confront our service members and veterans. I will continue to work to achieve better coordination by the departments and to ensure that the needs of veterans are met."
House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said: "The decision by DOD and VA to turn their backs on a truly integrated electronic health record system is deeply troubling. The need for a record system integrated across all DOD and VA components has been universally accepted for years, and until yesterday, both agencies have given us nothing but assurances they were working toward that goal. Previous attempts by DOD and VA to use disparate computer systems to produce universal electronic health records have failed, and unfortunately it appears they are repeating past mistakes. When DOD and VA take shortcuts, the veterans and service members under their care will be shortchanged."
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C), the ranking member of the Senate committee, said: "The fact that VA and DoD would reverse course on a plan they have been working towards for years that would create a coordinated electronic health record system between the two agencies is concerning and disappointing. I am concerned about what this means for our nation's service members and veterans, particularly those who will be transitioning from active duty service to civilian life in the near future. We owe it to our nation's defenders to do all we can to care for them and provide the most effective, efficient service we can, and coordination and communication between these two agencies is absolutely vital."
Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), ranking member of the House committee, said: "This is a huge setback and completely unacceptable. For years we have been told by both agencies that progress was made and that things were on track. I'm disappointed that our nation's two largest government agencies -- one of which is the world's foremost developer of high-tech machines and cyber-systems -- could not come together on something that would have been so beneficial to those that served. We have just witnessed hundreds of millions of dollars go down the drain."