Year 2000 Computing Crisis:

Progress Made in Compliance of VA Systems, But Concerns Remain

AIMD-98-237: Published: Aug 21, 1998. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 1998.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Joel C. Willemssen
(202) 512-6253
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the status of the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) corrective action to prevent computer system failures at the turn of the century, focusing on: (1) the Veterans Benefits Administration's (VBA) Year 2000 program; and (2) the Veterans Health Administration's (VHA) Year 2000 program.

GAO noted that: (1) VBA has made progress in addressing the recommendations in GAO's May 1997 report and making its information systems year 2000 compliant; (2) it has changed its year 2000 strategy from developing new applications to fixing the current ones and established a year 2000 project office to oversee and coordinate all VBA year 2000 projects; (3) it has also reportedly renovated 75 percent of its mission-critical applications as of June 1998, and completed renovation of two specific mission-critical systems--vocational rehabilitation and insurance; (4) despite this progress, concerns remain; (5) for example, VBA has made limited progress in renovating two key mission-critical software applications: (a) compensation and pension online, which processes claims benefits and updates benefit information; and (b) the Beneficiary Identification and Record Locator Sub-System; (6) VBA also has to reassess its commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products because one of its largest vendors, which initially informed VBA that its products were year 2000 compliant, recently informed VBA that some of its products were not compliant and that others were being assessed and tested; (7) this problem is not unique to VBA--it applies to all consumers of these products; (8) except for its Insurance Service, VBA has not developed year 2000 business continuity and contingency plans for its core business processes; (9) these issues could affect the timely processing of benefits to veterans and their dependents; (10) VHA has also made progress in addressing the year 2000 problem; (11) since September 1997, it has reported having assessed all and renovated the vast majority of its mission-critical information systems and having completed 98 percent of its renovation by June 1998; (12) however, concerns also remain; (13) for example, VHA does not know the full extent of its year 2000 problem because it has not yet completed its assessment of: (a) locally developed software applications or customized versions of national applications used by its medical facilities; (b) COTS products; (c) facility systems; and (d) biomedical devices; (14) VHA's efforts on several of these issues are complicated by the fact that it, like other consumers of these products, has to receive compliance information from the manufacturers, some of which have been slow to respond to VHA's requests for compliance information; (15) like VBA, VHA has not developed year 2000 business continuity and contingency plans; and (16) failure to adequately address these issues could result in disruptions in patient care at VHA medical facilities.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VBA agreed with the recommendation and has reassessed its mission-critical efforts for the compensation and pension online application and the Beneficiary Identification and Record Locator Sub-System, as well as other information technology initiatives. It also reallocated resources to ensure that the Y2K efforts had adequate resources, including contract support, to achieve compliance. In March 1999, VBA stated that it had completed renovation and implementation of these systems.

    Recommendation: To reduce the likelihood of delayed or interrupted benefits, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, with support from VBA's Chief Information Officer (CIO), should ensure that VBA reassesses its year 2000 mission-critical efforts for the compensation and pension on-line application and the Beneficiary Identification and Record Location Sub-System, as well as other information technology initiatives, such as special projects, to ensure that the year 2000 efforts have adequate resources, including contract support, to achieve compliance in time.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VBA agreed with the recommendation and completed its business continuity and contingency plan for its core business processes, as well as a related planning template for its regional offices. The plan provides a high-level overview of the resources, staff roles, procedures, and timetables for its implementation. It addresses risks, including mitigation actions to reduce the impact of Y2K-induced business failures, and analyzes the effect on each business line of a number of potential Y2K disasters-such as loss of electrical power, loss of data processing capabilities, and failure of internal infrastructure.

    Recommendation: To reduce the likelihood of delayed or interrupted benefits, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, with support from VBA's CIO, should ensure that VBA establishes a milestone for the contractor-developed business continuity framework and subsequent critical dates for the preparation of business continuity and contingency plans for each core business process or program service so that mission-critical functions affecting benefits delivery can be carried out if software applications and COTS products fail. These plans should provide a description of resources, staff roles, procedures, and timetables needed for implementation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VHA agreed with the recommendation and issued, in March 1999, its Patient-Focused Year 2000 Contingency Planning Guidebook to its medical facilities. The guidebook discusses how the facilities should develop contingency plans for each major hospital function-such as radiology, laboratory, and pharmacy-as well as each major support function-such as telecommunications, facility systems, medical devices, and automated information systems. The medical centers were tasked with developing business continuity and contingency plans by April 30. According to VHA's August 1999 report to OMB, VHA medical facilities had completed business continuity and contingency plans, as of June 30, 1999.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, with support from the VHA CIO, should ensure the rapid development of business continuity and contingency plans for each medical facility so that mission-critical functions affecting patient care can be carried out if software applications, COTS products, or facility-related systems and equipment do not function properly. These plans should address issues such as when to invoke alternative solutions or options if the manufacturer, who VHA depends on for compliance information, does not submit any. The plans also should describe resources, staff roles, procedures, and timetables needed for implementation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Oct 30, 2014

Sep 17, 2014

Sep 10, 2014

Sep 9, 2014

Sep 2, 2014

Jul 14, 2014

Jun 23, 2014

Jun 18, 2014

Jun 10, 2014

Jun 9, 2014

Looking for more? Browse all our products here