VA, GAO push back against proposed House overhaul measures

Today’s House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations meeting didn’t bode well for House bills demanding reform or restart. The Democrat-backed bill, dubbed the Manage VA Act, and the second Republican bill, Terminate VA’s EHRM Program (there is also a third, proposed by Republicans, the Electronic Health Record Modernization Improvement Act) were criticized by both VA and GAO representatives at the meeting.

The Manage VA Act proposes the creation of a VA undersecretary for management, who would serve as the Chief Management Officer (CMO). This would not only be for the Oracle Cerner EHR Modernization (EHRM) but also consolidate and standardize acquisition and IT functions across VA. VA and GAO criticized the new position as duplicative of the current VA structure and would run into obstacles similar to a CMO effort within the Department of Defense (DOD), such as lack of clarity and conflict with the CIO plus lack of funding for cross-functional teams and initiatives proposed by the CMO. To FedScoop, Shelby Oakley of the GAO representative expressed a dim view of how the VA has been handling things. “There needs to be much more discipline in the VA’s EHRM approach right now and it’s not clear that the CMO position would change that.” 

The Terminate VA EHRM Program bill, not unexpectedly, was derided as impractical and impossible. Fact: VistA is 40 years old and previous upgrade attempts have failed. Yet a VA deputy CIO just a month ago at an industry meeting, the Association for Federal IRM (AFFIRM), admitted that VistA is being moved to the cloud and being ‘containerized.’ Another VA software executive said it may be needed for another 10 years. You have to wonder if the House or Senate VA committees even know this and appreciate what it really is saying. 

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