GAO: VA’s HealtheVet needs plans

The Veterans Affairs Department needs a project management plan and a governance structure to implement its HealtheVet program successfully to modernize its medical information system, the Government Accountability Office has reported.

Although the department has made progress in this area, it has also experienced significant delays, and none of the associated development projects has been completed, GAO said in a report released July 30.

Despite the complex scope of the initiative, the VA is proceeding with it without a comprehensive project management plan and validated cost estimates to coordinate and guide the effort and has yet to establish a governance structure and permanently hire managers who have day-to-day oversight for it, said Valerie Melvin, director of GAO’s human capital and management information systems issues.

Several information technology governance boards with oversight responsibility for HealtheVet have not performed key reviews of the system's projects to determine progress and funding requirements, she said, adding that the department does not have a time frame for doing so.

“Until the department takes the necessary actions to fully address these matters, it will face the risk that HealtheVet may experience cost overruns and continued schedule slippages, and may not achieve the outcome it intends to achieve,” Melvin said.

As of June, the HealtheVet initiative had eight major software development projects under way, including one to further develop the Health Data Repository, a database of standardized health data, GAO said. From 2001, when it started, through fiscal 2007, VA reported spending almost $600 million for these eight projects. The time frame for completing the projects and the HealtheVet system as a whole was 2012, but the projected completion date has now been delayed until 2018. The department plans to complete the remainder of the HealtheVet effort incrementally, according to the report.

VA plans to replace the 104 applications in its current medical information system with 67 modernized applications; three databases; and 10 common services or general software functions, such as messaging and security, on which application software can call as needed. In April 2008, VA provided an $11 billion cost estimate for completion of HealtheVet, GAO said. But it has not yet independently validated this estimate, which is essential to improve the accuracy of cost, schedule, and performance management, Melvin said.

GAO recommended that VA’s chief information officer develop a project management plan for HealtheVet, cost estimates, permanently fill program and enterprise development positions, and develop a schedule for and conduct project milestone reviews.

In response, Gordon Mansfied, VA's deputy secretary, said the department is finalizing its governance plan, completed a draft comprehensive project management plan and validating and reviewing it, and independently validating the life-cycle estimate.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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