As VA Deals with Rampant Infighting and Turnover, Lawmakers Call for Swift Action with EHR Project

A group of US lawmakers contend, in a letter to the acting Veterans Affairs administrator, that a combination of staffing vacancies and the appointment of ethically compromised VA officials has contributed to “malign neglect” of efforts to modernize the VA’s the electronic health record (EHR) system.

In the letter, which was signed by Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate, the lawmakers expressed concern that the VA’s conversion to a Cerner product is being hindered by political interference and a lack of leadership due to multiple vacancies in the agency.

“The VA has 33,000 vacancies agency wide, including 553 within the OIT [the VA’s Office of Information and Technology]. In the last four months alone, nearly 40 senior staffers have resigned, effectively stalling operations in essential areas such as information technology,” the lawmakers wrote.

Additionally, the lawmakers questioned the appointment of Camilo Sandoval as the VA’s acting chief information officer due to his connections to Cambridge Analytica while working as the Trump campaign’s director of data operations. Sandoval is also the subject of a multi-million-dollar lawsuit for slandering, harassing, and discriminating against a campaign colleague, according to the letter.

Negotiations between the VA and Cerner, concerning the contract for the implementation of an EHR over a period of ten years, has also experienced delays. The firing of VA Administrator Dr. David Shulkin, MD, the inability to appoint his replacement, and the resignation of Acting chief information officer Scott Blackburn, have also complicated negotiations between the VA and Cerner.

What’s more, a report by Politico earlier this week detailed grave concerns by VA physicians and IT specialists about the current IT system, which they fear could lead to many deaths and injuries.

“The need for VA’s EHR modernization cannot be overstated. We ask that you take meaningful action to ensure transparency and accountability as VA seeks to establish a new EHR system,” lawmakers wrote.

Mary Butler is the associate editor at Journal of AHIMA.

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