VA health IT gets new chief

The Department of Veterans Affairs has named Craig Luigart, a former chief information officer at the Education Department and several Navy organizations, to lead its health information technology programs and services.

He is the new CIO for the veterans health care system and also deputy VA CIO for health. Unlike his predecessors, Luigart is reporting to VA CIO Robert McFarland rather than the undersecretary for health.

Since July 2003, Luigart had been the VA’s strategic planning executive, and his title was associate deputy assistant secretary for policies, plans and programs.

The VA also named Dr. Robert Kolodner its chief health informatics officer. Kolodner, a longtime VA health IT leader, was acting health CIO before Luigart’s appointment.

Luigart was named to Federal Computer Week’s Fed 100 list in 2002 and 2005. He was chairman of the CIO Council’s Section 508 steering committee, which coordinated implementation of accessibility rules for IT.

Luigart was a career naval aviator who became CIO of the Naval Air Systems Command and initiated the creation of the first CIO office for the Navy Department. He was chief technology officer for a Georgia medical technology services company before Education appointed him CIO in 1999.

Members of Congress have criticized the VA’s management of its IT spending in recent months. A bill introduced this month by Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, would give McFarland authority over departmentwide IT spending.

Until now, the Veterans Health Administration has controlled its own IT budget. It operates one of the world’s largest electronic medical information networks.

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