Bill would give VA's IT programs $767.6 million more

A Senate appropriations bill would match the president's request for hundreds of millions more for VA IT

The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a measure to fund the Veterans Affairs Department in fiscal 2010 that would provide more than $3.3 billion for the department’s Information Technology Systems programs, an increase of $767.6 million from the previous fiscal year.

The bill, approved by the committee July 7, would offer hundreds of millions more than VA got for the programs this year. The increase meets the levels requested by President Barack Obama and the spending approved by the House Appropriations Committee on June 23.

The $3.3 billion would go to IT projects to develop electronic health care records, paperless claims systems, and the integration of medical and service records with the Defense Department, according to a summary of the bill provided by the office of Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.). Johnson is chairman of the Appropriation Committee’s Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Subcommittee.

According to a report explaining the legislation, the committee recommends spending $938.8 million of the IT money for staff salaries and expenses, about $1.57 billion on existing programs and would give about $800.5 million for new program development.

However, the bill would place restrictions on the spending of the money for new program development until the head of the department or the chief information officer certifies to Congress the amount that will be spent on programs.

“While the committee remains very supportive of leveraging information technology solutions to transform the VA’s delivery of service to veterans, it nonetheless notes its extreme concern with the Department’s systemic problems surrounding information technology projects,” the report said.

However, the report said the committee was pleased with the VA leadership's efforts to improve IT management. In particular, the committee report highlighted the VA’s new Program Management Accountability System that is designed to eliminate long-term program failures.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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