Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs appeared before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs on February 4th to discuss the President’s VA budget request for FY 2011. The President’s budget provides $125 billion in 2011 which is almost $60.3 billion in discretionary resources and nearly $64.7 billion in mandatory funding.
The Secretary reported that in December 2009, the VA successfully exchanged electronic health record information in a pilot program between the VA Medical Center in San Diego and a local Kaiser Permanente hospital using the Nationwide Health Information Network. During the second quarter of 2010, DOD plans to join the pilot and there are plans to add additional Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record health community sites. The VA has $52 million available in IT funds in 2011 to continue the development and implementation of this priority.
The budget provides $51.5 million to use for medical care in 2011, which is an increase of $4 billion or 8.5 percent over the 2010 level. In 2011, the budget provides $2.6 billion to help meet the needs of veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The FY 2011 budget also includes funding to treat new patients resulting from the recent decision to add Parkinson’s disease, ischemic heart disease, and B-cell leukemia to the list of presumptive conditions for veterans with service in Vietnam.
The VA’s 2011 budget includes $250 million to strengthen access to healthcare for 3.2 million enrolled veterans living in rural and highly rural areas. Plans are to provide new rural health outreach and delivery initiatives and to expand the use of home-based primary care and mental health services.
The VA intends to expand the use of cutting edge telehealth technologies and would like to invest in $163 million in 2011 for home telehealth to take advantage of the latest technological advancement in healthcare delivery. The VA’s home telehealth program cares for 35,000 patients and a recent study found that patients enrolled in home telehealth programs experienced a 25 percent reduction in the average number of days hospitalized and a 19 percent reduction in hospitalizations.
According to the Secretary, the Department’s IT operations and maintenance program supports 334,000 users situated in 1,400 healthcare facilities, 57 regional offices, 158 national cemeteries around the country, plus the IT program maintains 8.5 million vital health and benefit records for veterans. The FY 2011 budget provides $3.3 billion for IT, which is the same level of funding provided in 2010.
The IT resources requested would fund IT to process education claims, to help the Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise project replace outdated technology, further develop the paperless claims processing system, and continue to develop the VA’s EHR system for $342.2 million.