Computerizing the VA

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Thousands of American soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are trying to take advantage of an important benefit of military service: medical care at VA hospitals. The processing of paperwork, however, is proving to be a tremendous hurdle.

The VA learned after the first Gulf War that the crush of applications for medical care was too much for its bureaucracy. Why? Because the VA still doesn't have a computer system capable of keeping track of a soldier's military background and health records. As a result, veterans applying for VA health benefits for the first time must carry around documentation of their military service.

Getting the VA computerized isn't going well. A model VA hospital computer system in Florida failed. It cost nearly half a billion dollars and was supposed to be a national model.

Our veterans deserve better than this. Creating a workable computerized record keeping system should not be like inventing the wheel. Something is wrong when millions of dollars fail to produce a solution. VA officials and federal legislators should take care of this overwhelming need.

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