On Capitol Hill, Concerns Remain About DOD-VA Interoperability

Aisha Chowdhry | FCW | July 13, 2016

Senate appropriators grilled top Veterans Affairs officials about whether the military and VA electronic health records systems are cooperating. VA CIO LaVerne Council, VistA Evolution Program Executive David Waltman and Veterans Health Administration Deputy Chief Medical Information Officer For Strategy and Design Jonathan Nebeker testified at a July 13 hearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies. DOD's director of the DoD/VA Interagency Program Office, Lauren Thompson, and Government Accountability Office Director for Information Management and Technology Resources Issues Valerie Melvin were also at the witness table.

Laverne CouncilThe VA "is still years away" from achieving interoperability with DoD, Melvin testified. She noted that VA still lacks clarity on what constitutes achieving full interoperability and how the agency intends to achieve it. She also added that there are still duplications between the two agencies and that VA has "yet to substantiate its claim" on modernizing VistA. Back in early April, DOD and VA jointly certified that they were interoperable, but that was related only to a specific provision of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. Yet as Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) mentioned in the hearing, while the Joint Legacy Viewer (JLV) was interoperable, it still lacked the capability to view X-rays and other medical imagery.

"You certified that you were interoperable based on the JLV existence and we now know that JLV does not have X-rays or CAT scans and that is interoperable from your view point," Committee Chairman Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said. "We need to move forward so that there is no net burden to the soldier….that we 100 percent transfer our data to the VA, so the VA that can see all the imagery." VA officials told the senators that the image viewer will be fully deployed this September and then it will have access to all records within the JLV...