Embattled agency promises an RFP for commercial solutions by late September, and aims to pick a vendor by year's end.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald: "We want this process to be open to all eligible vendors to make sure the nation's veterans have the full benefits the innovative marketplace has to offer."
The Department of Veterans Affairs, which is in the midst of overhauling its culture, processes and technology after criticism over long wait times for appointments and scandal involving senior employees juking statistics to qualify for bonuses, announced on Aug. 25 that it would open bidding on a planned new, commercial scheduling system by the end of September.
According to an agency release, vendors will have 30 days to submit bids. Early next year, while the scheduling procurement is ongoing, the VA plans to implement a new scheduling interface that looks like a calendar as an improvement over the existing text-based viewer. Other planned interim improvements include a mobile app that veterans can use to request appointments and a separate app for schedulers, both expected to be released in December.
The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, which became law earlier this month, requires the VA to report to Congress on "proposals for specific actions to be taken...to improve the scheduling system and scheduling software," and specifically seeks a determination on whether an existing commercial, off-the-shelf system would fit the bill. While the VA held a Challenge.gov contest in 2013 to solicit ideas for an open source scheduling solution, awarding more than $3 million in prizes, the law and the new leadership appear to be pushing the agency toward a more-traditional commercial approach.
"We want this process to be open to all eligible vendors to make sure the nation's veterans have the full benefits the innovative marketplace has to offer," said VA Secretary Robert McDonald in a statement.
The VA plans to put out a draft request for proposals before a formal solicitation is issued. The final RFP will require vendors to submit written proposals and demo their product for VA staff. An award is expected by the end of 2014.