VA IT budget to get a boost in House spending bill

While many federal agencies anticipate budget cuts this year, the Veterans Affairs Department’s information technology budget would get a 6.5 percent raise if a proposal from a key House committee prevails.

Republican leaders in the House Appropriations Committee allocated $3.3 billion for VA’s IT systems in fiscal 2013, which is a $200 million boost from the $3.1 billion current level, according to the legislation released by the committee on May 7.

That amounts to a 6.5 percent increase in funding for the office headed by CIO Roger Baker.

Major programs run by the VA’s IT office include modernization of the “VistA” legacy digital health record system, MyHealtheVet electronic record system, the Blue Button Initiative for downloadable health records and the DOD-VA integrated health record.

The committee said $1.8 billion would go for operations and maintenance of existing systems, $1 billion would go for salaries and $494 million would go for IT system development, modernization and enhancement.

The House panel said 75 percent of the funding for the DOD-VA integrated record would be held back until Congress receives a full spending plan and long-term roadmap. The planning documents must show year-to-year spending details, milestones for progress, cost-sharing arrangements and a schedule for data standardization, according to a copy of the legislation released by the committee.

Overall, the panel allocated $60.7 billion in discretionary funding to the VA, which is $2.3 billion above the current level. The total includes $41 billion for medical services for veterans and their families.

The House Appropriations Committee, currently led by Republicans in the GOP-majority House, is the key panel that writes spending bills for the federal government. Its proposals go up for votes in House appropriations subcommittees, followed by the full committee and the full House, and may be amended at each step. The final version also must be reconciled with Senate spending bills to become law.

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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