VA proposes 2014 budget, $3.7B for IT
April 16, 2013 in Medical Technology
Before a congressional hearing Monday, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki requested a $152.7 billion department budget for fiscal year 2014, including $3.683 billion for information technology systems. Some committee members, however, voiced concern over the request, citing the dilatory pace at which the department has moved toward an integrated electronic health record and recent decline in VA productivity.
The total requested budget reflects a $2.7 billion increase (4.3 percent) from FY 2013. For information technology, the budget represents a $359 million increase from FY 2013.
“Our 2014 budget will allow VA to operate the largest integrated healthcare system in the country, with more than 9 million veterans enrolled to receive healthcare,” Shinseki said in a sub-hearing.
In regards to the healthcare IT budget request, Shinseki explained that $155 million has been requested for the Veterans Benefits Management System, the department’s new paperless processing system; $15.4 million for the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record, which will allow the sharing of health information among DoD, VA, SSA and other healthcare providers. This amount will also be used to further develop the Warrior Support Veterans Tracking Application; a clinical data repository and a VA/DoD joint health information sharing project, the Bidirectional Health Information Exchange.
“We are working on delivering a 21st century VA that provides medical care, benefits, and services through a digital infrastructure. Technology is integrated with everything we do for veterans,” Shinseki said before the committee.
Some members of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs however, pressed for more answers. Ranking member Richard Burr (R-N.C.) expressed concern over recent happenings at the VA and its subsequent lowered productivity, calling for a careful review of the budget request.
“Regarding claims processing, we all know that the backlog and delays have gotten worse over the past four years, even though VA has hired more staff, spent millions on IT solutions, and rolled out dozens of initiatives,” Burr told the committee.
Among his top concerns was the “ambiguity of the IT projects that are becoming the backbone of operations.”