13 things that are about to change at VA

Shutterstock image.

The Veterans Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act passed the House on July 30 with a vote of 420 to 5.  The Senate followed suit, 91 to 3, on July 31, and the president's signature is all but assured. Once enacted, the law would require outside review of most every aspect of VA operations, including "the competency of leadership with respect to culture, accountability... and performance management."

Scattered through the bill, however, are a number of specific IT and management mandates for the department -- many of which could entail significant new systems. Key provisions include:

  1. Digital Waiting List: The department must create an electronic waiting list on that will allow veterans to monitor the status of their position in line, as well as view the average wait times for each facility and type of care. The wait-time information must be available online to the general public.

  2. Claims Processing System: As many veterans will now be able to go outside the VA for covered care, the department must develop an "efficient nationwide system for processing and paying bills and claims for authorized care." Regulations for the system must be drafted within 90 days.

  3. Electronic Medical Records: Electronic medical records have been vital to veterans' health efforts for years. The department must now coordinate with external healthcare providers to ensure that compatible data is fed back into veterans' personal records.

  4. VA Choice Cards: The VA will have 90 days to establish a system to monitor and issue veterans a "Veterans Choice Card," which will "facilitate the receipt of care" from non-VA health providers.

  5. Electronic Notifications: Veterans must be notified electronically -- if that is deemed to be "the most effective means available"-- to describe the care or services they are individually eligible to receive.

  6. Telemedicine: VA has been a leader in telemedicine, but Congress wants more. The department must now ensure that every "mobile medical center" is capable of providing telemedicine services.

  7. Open Data: Data for patient safety, quality-of-care and outcomes must be published as "a comprehensive database" within 180 days. This data must then be fed into the Department of Health and Human Services' "Hospital Compare" website.

  8. Off-the-Shelf Solutions First: The VA's history of developing in-house solutions is also targeted for special scrutiny. The bill calls for careful review of "any interim technology changes or attempts... to internally develop a long-term scheduling solutions [sic] with respect to the feasibility and cost effectiveness ... compared to commercially available solutions."

  9. Outside Assessment of IT Systems and Workflows: The VA must contract with an external assessor to review the systems and workflows used for scheduling, staffing, length-of-care management, and documentation of care. This external review must also cover the department's core "information technology strategies" for furnishing and managing care--"including an identification of any weaknesses and opportunities with respect to the technology used."

  10. Better access control: An additional assessment will explore whether system access ought to be limited to those employees who have been "properly trained" in scheduling appointments.

  11. Technology Task Force: Additionally, newly-confirmed Secretary Robert McDonald has been instructed to establish a "technology task force" that will review the department's scheduling systems and software needs.

  12. Bonuses & Prohibitions: Bonuses based on scheduling and wait-time metrics are no more, and any future falsifications of data concerning wait times will be met serious penalties, up to and including dismissal. McDonald must also ensure that annual awards and bonuses do not exceed $360 million.

  13. Executive Performance: The secretary will be given expanded power to quickly remove VA executives for poor performance, and must report any such dismissal to Congress within 30 days, along with a justification for the decision.

About the Authors

Jonathan Lutton is an FCW editorial fellow. Connect with him at

Troy K. Schneider is editor-in-chief of FCW and GCN.

Prior to joining 1105 Media in 2012, Schneider was the New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company. The founding editor of, Schneider also helped launch the political site in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times,, Slate, Politico, National Journal, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.

Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.

Click here for previous articles by Schneider, or connect with him on Twitter: @troyschneider.


  • Contracting
    8 prototypes of the border walls as tweeted by CBP San Diego

    DHS contractors face protests – on the streets

    Tech companies are facing protests internally from workers and externally from activists about doing for government amid controversial policies like "zero tolerance" for illegal immigration.

  • Workforce
    By Mark Van Scyoc Royalty-free stock photo ID: 285175268

    At OPM, Weichert pushes direct hire, pay agent changes

    Margaret Weichert, now acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, is clearing agencies to make direct hires in IT, cyber and other tech fields and is changing pay for specialized occupations.

  • Cloud
    Shutterstock ID ID: 222190471 By wk1003mike

    IBM protests JEDI cloud deal

    As the deadline to submit bids on the Pentagon's $10 billion, 10-year warfighter cloud deal draws near, IBM announced a legal protest.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.