Congress

IT subcommittee seeks GAO probe on VistA upgrade

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Rep. Robyn Kelly (D-Ill.)

Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) have asked GAO to review and report on VA's efforts to modernize its electronic health record system.

Two leading IT watchdogs on Capitol Hill are seeking an oversight probe of efforts to modernize the Department of Veterans Affairs’ homegrown electronic health record system.

Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) requested that the Government Accountability Office review and report on the modernization of VA's VistA.

"Given the significance of VA's electronic health record information system to the performance of its health care mission, and in light of VA's repeated attempts to modernize the VistA, the [IT] Subcommittee is requesting information on the efforts to modernize VistA," Hurd and Kelly wrote in a May 27 letter.

They point out that the agency has taken "various initiatives to modernize or replace VistA" in the past 15 years, and "these efforts...have not produced the kinds of modern systems and capabilities that Congress mandated."

The letter also states that, "moreover, VA has recently indicated that it may be pursuing yet another modernization initiative."

LaVerne Council, CIO and assistant secretary of information and technology at VA, told lawmakers last fall that it was time to take a step back and review the ongoing VistA modernization effort.

"We have not made up our minds" about what to do about VistA, Council said at the time. She later clarified in an interview with FCW that the review would not affect the delivery of the next phase of VistA.

House and Senate appropriators have also expressed concerns about VistA. In April, Congress chose to fund the agency's IT operations at a level close to the Obama administration's request, but the budget came with restrictions related to VistA.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's IT Subcommittee wants GAO to conduct a study that covers the history of VistA modernization efforts, their results and costs, the contractors that are involved, the type of work they provided and the current estimated cost to modernize VistA.

About the Author

Aisha Chowdhry is a former staff writer for FCW.


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