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N.Y. Senator Pushes for Interoperable EHR for Veterans

November 11, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is pushing legislation that would force the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) to create an interoperable electronic health record (EHR) system for service members.

Schumer’s motive is the “serious delays” in processing nearly 15,000 Upstate New York veterans’ disability and other benefits. He says when a service member goes from active duty to separation and retirement, the VA’s Veteran’s Benefits Administration a goes through a significant amount of time accessing and analyzing DoD medical treatment records.

The Senator is pushing legislation that would force the government agencies to create an interoperable and continuous electronic health record for each veteran to increase the efficiency of processing claims, hire more claims processors, and define quantifiable goals. He will attempt to add these provisions to be included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) legislation coming to the Senate floor in the coming weeks.  By doing this and supporting the Service Member’s Electronic Health Records Act of 2013, an effort led by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), Schumer would be putting a one-year deadline on the agencies to get interoperable.

“While we shouldn’t need a reminder, Veteran’s Day provides a solemn one for all of us – we don’t expect delays from our soldiers when they are shipped overseas and placed in a combat zone, so we shouldn’t tolerate delays of such a significant magnitude from the Department of Defense and the Veteran’s Administration when our soldiers seek to access the benefits they are entitled to,” Schumer said in a statement. “With nearly 15,000 backlogged claims in Upstate New York alone, clearly we need improved communication between the Department of Defense and the VA, so that our vets can have the benefits they deserve in a timely manner.”

Schumer isn’t the first Senator to push this kind of agenda. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) critiqued the DOD and VA for their inability to create a joint, integrated EHR system, back in June.  In February of this year, the two agencies announced they were nixing their formal plans to create an interoperable system.

Along with the provisions above, Schumer is pushing for the Claims Processing Improvement Act of 2013, which was introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT).  It would hold the VA accountable by requiring it to publically report information on both its projected monthly goals and actual production so Congress and the public knows if the VA is working toward eliminating its backlog.



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