“The VA is transforming into a high performing 21st century department that will differ from today’s organization” according to the Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs testifying before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs on October 14th.
The Secretary told the Committee that the Department’s next major leap in healthcare delivery is to connect flagship medical centers to distant community-based outpatient clinics and their even more distant mobile counterparts. This is being accomplished via an information technology backbone that places specialized healthcare professionals in direct contact with patients using telehealth and telemedicine connections.
In keeping up with technology, the VA is now using social media web sites, including MyHealtheVet and Second Life. This makes it possible to make contacts with veterans including the OEF and OIF veterans who do not respond to traditional outreach such as lectures, pamphlets, and telephone calls.
The Secretary went into detail discussing the disability claims backlog at the VA and the urgent need to reduce the time that it takes for a veteran to have a claim fairly adjudicated. The total number of claims in the VA inventory is around 400,000 and backlogged claims that have been in the system for longer than 125 days total roughly 149,000 cases. In collaboration with the VA’s IT leadership the VA intend to revolutionize the claims process to make it faster and to be able to make higher quality decisions.
In April, President Obama charged Defense Secretary Gates and the VA Secretary with building a fully interoperable electronic records system to provide each member of the armed forces, a Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record that will track them from the day they put on the uniform, through their time as veterans, until the day they are laid to rest.
The Secretary reports that today the VA has received two and one-half million deployment related health assessments from DOD on more than one million individuals. Today, information is shared between the Departments and critical health information is now provided on more than three million patients.