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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