The president's proposed 2015 budget includes $3.9 billion for IT projects within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The funds will be focused on expanding digital access to services and eliminating the claims backlog, according to an announcement.
The proposal represents roughly a $2 billion increase over last year's request of $3.683 billion in IT funding by the agency. Estimated IT spending by the VA in FY 2014 is $3.7 billion.
Under the proposed budget, $173 million would be allocated to Veterans Benefits Management System, the department's paperless processing system. In addition, it proposes $139 million to continue conversion of paper records into electronic images and data in the VBMS.
Other budget items include:
- $567 million for telehealth funding to improve access to care, particularly in rural areas
- $86.6 million for improved customer service applications for online self-service portals and call center agent-assisted inquiries
- $269 million for VistA Evolution, the upgrade to its electronic health record system
- $156 million for cybersecurity
The claims backlog stood at 611,000 claims last March, but since reportedly has stalled at 400,000. The VA and U.S. Department of Defense, however, have been working together on technology called the Health Artifact and Image Management Solution (HAIMS) to expedite disability claims decisions.
A Government Accountability Office report published last week, however, said the VA and DoD have failed to substantiate claims that building separate electronic health record systems will be less expensive and more effective than the joint EHR project they abandoned a year ago.
It said the two agencies had "lost valuable time" in helping to streamline care processes for veterans and other service members.