The leader of the nation's largest veterans service organization has reiterated his call for a single, lifetime electronic medical records system to be shared by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger says the system – although costly and slow in development – can make the military-to-civilian transition more seamless and improve health-care services for veterans.
In the VA section of the 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Act – the government spending bill – the text reads, in part: "The (House and Senate defense appropriations) committees want to be very clear with both departments: An interoperable record between the two departments is the chief end goal for Congress ... There is rising concern the departments will spend years and billions of dollars on their own electronic health record systems and lose sight of the end-goal of an interoperable record."
Dellinger, after spending a month fighting with Congress in an effort to protect benefits for military retirees, concurs with lawmakers on the need to get VA and DoD working together on the lifetime record system. "We share congressional skepticism that, unless checked, VA and DoD may continue to go their own ways," Dellinger said. "This, in the opinion of The American Legion, cannot be allowed."
In February 2013, the two departments announced plans to abandon the joint-system project. This decision came after "spending and then wasting a billion dollars on it by not seeing the project through." DoD and VA cited cost as the reason for halting the project some four years after President Obama called for its completion.
"From our point of view, DoD and VA defied orders from the president and rejected The American Legion by suspending the project last winter," Dellinger said. "Judging by the language in the omnibus bill, Congress apparently agrees with us and wants them to get this done."
In October 2012, American Legion leadership adopted Resolution No. 42  urging development of a single, cross-agency "Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record." The call was reiterated by the Legion in subsequent testimony before Congress.