Congress will fund VA health IT improvements

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When the lawmakers from the U.S. House and Senate return from their summer recess, they are set to approve unprecedented spending for the Department of the Veteran Affairs (VA), which includes funding for electronic health records (EHRs) and information systems.

The 2008 fiscal year appropriation bills are scheduled to provide approximately $1.9 billion for VA technology systems, about $645 million more than Congress allotted for the 2007 fiscal year. In particular, the funding will ensure that EHRs will follow patients as they are transferred from the Department of Defense (DoD) system to the VA system.

The Senate bill will direct the VA to report to Congress on Jan. 31, 2008 on the progress undertaken to ensure interoperability between the two health systems. This directive is in response to a reprimand that the VA received from the House Appropriation Committee for developing EHRs that were not compatible with the DoD.

In June, the House passed the legislation, and the Senate is expected to consider it in September.