House proposal eviscerates HealtheVet

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Grim prognosis

Members of a House subcommittee gutted President Bush's request for $311 million for fiscal 2006 to launch a health e-record program known as HealtheVet, which would modernize the data-based system for the nation’s veterans.

The House Appropriations Committee's Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, approved May 12 $11 million for the project next year. The dramatically reduced recommendation now goes to the full committee and the Senate for action.

"The administration asked for $311 million for a brand new program and had not provided the committee with a single justification," said John Scofield, spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee.

He said the panel’s investigators will assess whether the funding is necessary and how it should be spent.

The subcommittee's action is the latest stumbling block for the HealtheVet program. Last month, a Carnegie Mellon report commissioned by the Department of Veterans Affairs said the ambitious program had been poorly planned and faced a high risk of failure. Robert McFarland, the VA's chief information officer, said the report had been commissioned to find holes in the project and identify the best way to close them.

Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee in March recommended cutting $400 million from the VA's proposed information technology budget for 2006, including start-up funds for HealtheVet. Committee chairman Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), said at the time that the project should not be funded until officials answered all questions about its operability problems.

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