Bill would create Web portal for veterans' records

Goal of the iVets Act is to enable veterans to gain access to DOD personnel records

Veterans would get online access to their military personnel file and health and benefits records under legislation introduced in the House.

Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.), the sponsor of the Improving Veterans Electronic Transition Services (iVets) Act, wants to help ease the transition from military life to civilian life by enabling veterans to access their service records electronically in a veterans-only Web portal. The proposed Web portal also would offer a “white pages” directory of veterans, e-mail and a direct communications link with the Veterans Affairs Department.

Active duty military service members now use the Defense Department’s Defense Knowledge Online system to check their personnel records and benefits, but they lose access to the system once they become veterans.

For medical records, President Obama in April 2009 started efforts to create a joint DOD/VA seamless lifetime medical record for each service member that follows the person as he or she exits the military and becomes a veteran. Two pilot projects are currently taking place testing the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record and using the Health and Human Service Department’s Nationwide Health Information Network.

However, Tsongas, while recognizing those ongoing efforts, said her bill addresses a specific goal. Under Tsongas’ bill introduced May 5, an assessment would be made of whether a veterans Web portal can be created that is modeled after the Defense Knowledge Online system and able to access information from the DOD system.

“While efforts have recently been made to try and improve veterans’ access to their military records, Tsongas’ legislation would allow the DOD and VA to assess the feasibility of providing electronic access to this needed information such as health care, service, and benefits records through a platform that is already familiar to new veterans,” states a news release from Tsongas’ office.

Tsongas, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said her bill would set up the additional services, such as e-mail and social media.

Tsongas’ lesiglation has won support from the Association of the U.S. Army.

“The current lack of access to Official Military Personnel Files places an unnecessary and frustrating burden on veterans and limits the continuum of care and support they need for transition from active service member to veteran,” General Gordon Sullivan, president of the association, said in a news release. ““Establishment of a veteran-specific Web portal would make it much easier to for service members, as they transition to veteran status, to have seamless access to their service, benefit, and health care information online.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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