Democratic lawmakers on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs have introduced two bills intended to improve IT acquisition and management at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Reps. Mark Takano of California and Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick of Florida have proposed the Manage VA Act and the Department of Veterans Affairs IT Modernization Improvement Act, which are intended to spur a wider overhaul of how technology services are procured at the agency.
The draft pieces of legislation are intended to fundamentally overhaul how the VA
approaches the use of information technology, including its electronic health record modernization program.
If enacted, the Manage VA Act would create a VA undersecretary for management post, which the lawmakers say would have the effect of consolidating and standardizing acquisition and IT functions across the department.
The IT Modernization Improvement Act, meanwhile, would require VA to contract for an independent verification and validation assessment of four major IT modernization programs: its EHR modernization, supply chain modernization, financial management and business transformation and veterans benefits management system.
Details of the legislative proposals come after FedScoop in February revealed that Democratic lawmakers were working on “comprehensive” plans to reform the VA’s electronic health record modernization program as an alternative to Republican bills.
Sources speaking to FedScoop at the time said the legislation would seek to provide a more holistic approach to solving issues that have dogged the EHR system without resorting to its precursor system, the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture.
In late January, House GOP lawmakers introduced two complementary bills that would compel the VA either to substantially modify the rollout or scrap entirely implementation of Oracle Cerner’s electric health record platform.
Commenting on the proposals, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Takano said: “While I am encouraged by President Biden’s and Secretary McDonough’s efforts to make investments in our veterans a top priority in recent years, it is time we also invest in making sure that veterans and taxpayers are getting what they pay for – a modernized and efficiently managed VA.”
“My two bills will bolster accountability at VA by requiring outside verification and validation assessments of major IT modernization programs, and by establishing an Under Secretary for Management to help consolidate and standardize business functions – from acquisition to IT – across VA,” he added. “I hope this is the beginning of a bigger discussion about making VA work better for veterans and moving VA healthcare into the future.”
Cherfilus-McCormick, the House VA Subcommittee on Technology Modernization ranking member, said: “As the new Ranking Member of the Technology Modernization Subcommittee, I have already seen the issues that have led to a lack of progress in modernizing IT at VA. These bills will support effective implementation at VA and focus on building up our capacity to provide the healthcare and benefits our veterans deserve while ensuring that taxpayers are getting what they are paying for.”