The Department of Veterans Affairs has hired a new senior executive to quickly fix serious issues on the department’s VA.gov website related to mishandled claims and access benefits — but the identity of that executive isn’t known to a top VA tech official.
During a House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Technology Modernization hearing Monday, Chairman Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., pressed Kurt DelBene, the VA’s assistant secretary for information and technology and CIO, on his agency’s response to a Sept. 6 letter regarding problems with VA.gov.
The letter, sent by Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., chairman of the full House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, to VA Secretary Denis McDonough, sought agency explanations for recent VA.gov problems.
A VA IT investigation found that more than 56,000 veterans who submitted a request to update their dependents — mostly adding or removing spouses or children — “did not have those claims successfully processed by VA.gov,” VA press secretary Terrence Hayes said in a statement in September. Those IT errors and website issues had been occurring for some veterans as far back as 2011 and could affect their monthly benefit payments, the VA acknowledged in September.
Rosendale said that subcommittee members received the VA response to Bost’s letter less than an hour before Monday’s hearing. “It took two hearings by this subcommittee to shake this response loose, and that is absolutely unacceptable,” he said.
According to Rosendale, the letter stated that the VA’s Office of Information and Technology “brought on a new senior executive who directly reports” to DelBene, and that person “will ensure issues related to mishandled claims and veterans unable to access a benefit application are rapidly fixed.”
Rosendale then asked DelBene for the name of the executive and why they weren’t present at the hearing.
“I actually hold myself responsible for making any VA.gov fixes,” DelBene said, “and I’m not sure” who the letter refers to. “I’ll have to get back on reference to the actual executive” in charge, per the letter.
“I know all my senior executives, but I’m trying to give you the correct information in terms of who you’re referencing,” he added.
Rosendale expressed surprise at the answer and said that within a day, he expected DelBene to provide the subcommittee with the name of the senior executive in charge of VA.gov and explain why they weren’t present at the hearing.