US Veteran Affairs overhaul includes IT assessment

A senator pushes for a provision that would require the agency to seek private IT advice on its scheduling system

U.S. President Barack Obama has signed legislation focused on overhauling the Department of Veteran Affairs' troubled health-care system, including an IT review of the VA's process of scheduling patients.

The US$16 billion overhaul of the VA health-care system, signed by Obama Thursday, is designed to eliminate long waiting periods for military veterans to get health services at some VA medical centers. In some cases, veterans waiting for doctor's appointments died, according to reports.

Part of the legislation allows for the agency to enlist pro bono assistance of private-sector IT experts to help fix what critics have called a "broken" scheduling system at the VA.

Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat who pushed for the IT provisions, praised the legislation. He called it a "huge win" for veterans.

"I'm very, very pleased this law includes my provision to bring in a team of the best and brightest IT experts to work with the VA to more quickly and efficiently provide our veterans with the care and services they have earned," he said in a statement. "Even better, this won't cost tax payers a dime."

A May report from the VA's Office of Inspector General found an antiquated process of scheduling health-care appointments at VA facilities in Phoenix, where reports of significant waiting times first surfaced.

From February 2013 until March, veterans who called the help line to enroll in the Phoenix health-care system and get an initial primary-care appointment first had their information collected by a help-line staff member. The help-line worker would collect the patient information on a computerized system, then print out a screen shot.

The screen shots would then go to other workers to enter the information into the VA's separate electronic wait list, according to the report. The process of printing out the veterans' health-care information and re-entering it into a new system resulted in frequent "delays and backlogs," with patients told the process would take three to five months, the IG's report said.

Warner and the Northern Virginia Technology Council, a trade group of Virginia IT vendors, had worked with the VA and the White House for several weeks to design a "workable plan" for private IT consulting help for the agency, Warner said in a statement.

Warner's provision requires the VA's secretary to enlist a task force of technology companies to review "the needs of the department with respect to the scheduling system and scheduling software," and to report within 45 days with specific actions to improve scheduling and software. The provision requires the VA secretary to implement these recommendations within one year of receiving the pro bono assessment.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags U.S. Department of Veteran AffairsGovernment use of ITNorthern Virginia Technology CouncilMark WarnergovernmentBarack Obama

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?