The White House released a discretionary budget outline Friday that asks Congress to appropriate $4.8 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ Office of Information and Technology for fiscal 2022.
The $4.8 billion top-line IT number is just shy of the enacted $4.9 billion given by Congress last year, which doesn’t include emergency funding made available to the VA to account for telemedicine and telework needs during the pandemic.
Separate from the OIT budget, the White House has also asked for $2.7 billion for the continued modernization of VA’s electronic health record, a 10-year project that could cost north of $16 billion before it’s all said and done.
“The funding request invests in the core foundations of our country’s strength and advances key U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) priorities, including addressing Veteran homelessness, suicide prevention, caregiver support, and modernizing information technology systems to enhance customer service experience and ensure Veterans receive world-class health care,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement following the budget proposal release.
In total, the VA is requesting $113.1 billion in discretionary funding, an $8.5 billion or 8.2% increase from the fiscal 2021 enacted level, according to the White House.
Congress ended up giving the VA more than it asked for in fiscal 2021, and we’ll have to wait and see if appropriators will be as generous this time given the record spending the government has already undertaken in light of the pandemic.
Leaders on Capitol Hill and at VA have expressed concerns about cost overruns on the EHR program, which is funded separately from the IT budget. Secretary McDonough told Congress in March that he saw higher than anticipated staff needs during the initial launch of the program, which may result in higher costs than the $16 billion originally expected.
The VA received $2.6 billion in the enacted fiscal 2021 budget for the EHR program.
Spending on the new cloud-based medical records system was supposed to peak early in the rollout. The program is built on Cerner’s Millennium software system and will eventually be interoperable with a similar system being rolled out in military medical centers.