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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

House panel marks $344M for Defense-VA EHR

By Ashok Selvam
Posted: May 17, 2013 - 2:30 pm ET

The House Appropriations Committee this week marked $344 million for the development of an electronic health-record system that would allow the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments to share the same information.

The funding is part of the fiscal 2014 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs legislation (PDF), and calls for the development of a “single, joint, common, integrated health record with an open architecture that will be used by both the Department of Veteran Affairs and Department of Defense.” The $344 million is $92 million more than the $252 million requested. The same bill sets aside $55.6 billion for fiscal 2014 for veterans' medical programs, including facilities, medical support and compliance, and medical services.

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The legislation faces a full committee markup on Tuesday.

The two departments have long suffered with interoperability issues. In February, a plan to develop a joint system between the two departments was scrapped. Officials said they would instead focus on improving existing systems and use more cost-effective solutions to bolster interoperability.

There's building frustration among veterans who have seen millions of dollars spent without a solution, said Joy Ilem, deputy national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans.

“Are they close?” Ilem said. “That's questionable.”

Veterans understand that developing a seamless system is a complicated issue. But Ilem wonders why the VA and DOD just can't seem to agree on how they will collaborate. The decision to develop a single system represents yet another shift in how the government is attempting to address the problem.

Last month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress that officials were looking into converting the Defense Department's military health records to the VA's mostly open-source VistA records system. That was after he told a House Appropriations subcommittee that he was deferring further spending on interoperability until he had a better handle on the situation.

Follow Ashok Selvam on Twitter: @MH_aselvam

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