VA, DOD to create lifetime e-record

President Barack Obama said today that the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments have started to create a lifetime electronic record that would ultimately contain administrative and medical information from the time people enter military service through their lives as veterans.

Obama said it was time “to give our veterans a 21st-century VA," adding that there is no comprehensive system that enables a smooth transition of health care records between DOD and VA.

“That results in extraordinary hardship for an awful lot of veterans, who end up finding their records lost, unable to get their benefits processed in a timely fashion,” Obama said. Access to electronic records is essential to modern health care delivery and the paperless administration of benefits, he added.

“That’s why I’m asking both departments to work together to define and build a seamless system of integration with a simple goal: When a member of the armed forces separates from the military, he or she will no longer have to walk paperwork from a DOD duty station to a local VA health center; their electronic records will transition along with them and remain with them forever,” he said.

The system would reduce administrative mistakes and let all VA sites access a veteran's complete military medical record, giving the sites the information they need to deliver high-quality care, Obama said.

The seamless exchange of records was among the many recommendations of the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors, which former President George W. Bush created in 2007 after reports that bureaucratic and administrative roadblocks were preventing wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from obtaining proper care.

At an industry event last month, Rear Adm. Gregory Timberlake, director of the DOD/VA Interagency Program Office, said VA and DOD are on track to implement a single electronic health record by Sept. 30 that the two agencies can use to exchange medical information on active-duty service members and veterans.

The departments have agreed to go even further by collaborating on a lifetime electronic health record using a common services approach through a service-oriented architecture, he said. Initial common services include single sign-on, identity management, the capability to access medical consultations from either department and the portability of records, he added.

A common services strategy would let the two departments incrementally add functionality to the electronic health record and adopt new business processes, Timberlake said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Thu, Apr 30, 2009 RMSpec Wash DC

Of course this could have been done years ago but everyone that held the purse strings was afraid of making a commitment because there is obviously a lot of ignorance about records versus documents.

Mon, Apr 13, 2009

"What is so hard about following the current procedure...?" That is an easy one...often times it can take 6 weeks or more to get electronic copies of your records IF they can find them. Then, you have to find a place to print them because the VA will not accept the electronic PDF files. Compound those processes for many of our Wounded Warriors, who are facing other challenges, and it can be indeed overwhelming. I work in an office that deals with those separating and those injured. Too often, I have seen issues with getting copies of the information. In addition, the copies received may not contain all the information or are illegible due to the handwriting. I agee that there is no reason to provide paper copies when electronic would be significantly more feasible and accurate.

Sat, Apr 11, 2009 Al

I think this is a great use of technology.The VA/DOD files should be complete and have access as they are requested for action by both doctors and claim reps.

Fri, Apr 10, 2009 Ex-GI Salem, OR

Hey Mike, what is your disability rating? It appears that you sustained more that what you admit to. Electronic records are a dream, here where I live, my doctor comes in with his laptop, sits, access my records and when I leave, he has updated my file with the most current stuff for everyone else to know on my way back for treatment. Just because you are accustomed to the 'old' does not mean there is not room for improvement. Give it a chance, buddy.

Fri, Apr 10, 2009 NavyAICS

I agree with the first poster that "this could have been done years ago" but I also agree with "that results in extraordinary hardship" is a bit over the top. We have the technology to simplify the process but it should be viewed from the angle of ensuring fewer mistakes by human completed processes and because of extraordinary hardships.

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