House Committee On Veterans’ Affairs Holds Hearing On Status Of IT Solutions Needed To Implement The VA Mission Act
By PVA National Staff
The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held an oversight hearing on April 2 entitled, “MISSION Critical: Assessing the Technology to Support Community Care.” Dr. Richard Stone, Executive in Charge, Veterans Health Administration; Mr. James Gfrerer, VA’s Assistant Secretary for the Office of Information and Technology/Chief Information Officer; and Dr. Melissa Glynn, Assistant Secretary for Enterprise Integration represented VA.
This hearing was held to discuss VA’s implementation of the new Veterans Community Care Program (VCCP), which is due to roll out on June 6. The Committee opened the hearing by voicing concerns about whether the Decision Support Tool (DST) will be ready to deploy by the implementation deadline. DST is a tool VA is developing to make decisions on drive and wait times. Dr. Stone stated that DST is not required to launch the VCCP and VA will be ready to launch the program as planned. Mr. Gfrerer explained DST was designed by VA physicians and looks at the Master Patient Index, Enrollment System, and Patient Data Exchange to make decisions about drive time and wait time.
The Committee also addressed VA’s proposed access standards. Committee Members outlined their disappointments in writing to VA, noting the Department’s proposed access standards don’t live up to the goal of the VA MISSION Act, which was to get rid of the arbitrary one-size-fits-all approach to veterans’ access to community care. They urged the Department not to hollow out VA’s capacity to serve veterans by bypassing VA care for nearly-automatic eligibility for community care. The Committee also criticized VA’s unacceptable lack of transparency in developing access standards that would hold community providers to lower standards than VA doctors. Lastly, the members also noted that VA does not know how many veterans will be affected by the proposed access standards and is unable to provide accurate data about how much it will cost tax payers.