Year 2000 Computing Crisis:

Actions Needed to Ensure Continued Delivery of Veterans Benefits and Health Care Services

AIMD-99-190R: Published: Jun 11, 1999. Publicly Released: Jun 11, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on its recommendations to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for completing key actions necessary to ensure continued delivery of benefits and health care services to veterans beyond January 1, 2000.

GAO noted that: (1) the Veterans Benefits Administration and Veterans Health Administration (VHA) have not yet completed testing of their mission-critical systems to ensure that the systems can reliably accept future dates; (2) VHA has not yet completed assessments of its facility systems; (3) VHA's pharmaceutical operations are at risk because the automated systems supporting its consolidated mail outpatient pharmacies (CMOP) are not yet year 2000 compliant; (4) VHA does not yet include the CMOP systems in its quarterly report of mission-critical systems to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB); and (5) VHA does not yet know if its medical facilities will have a sufficient supply of pharmaceutical and medical-surgical supplies on hand because it does not have complete information on the year 2000-readiness of these manufacturers.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To ensure the continued delivery of benefits and health care services to veterans beyond January 1, 2000, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should reassess VA's decision not to report CMOP systems as mission-critical. Reporting these systems as mission-critical to VA top management and OMB will help ensure that necessary attention is paid and action taken.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA concurred with the recommendation. VHA reported to OMB the VistA CMOP application as mission-critical; however, the VistA CMOP application only addressed the medical center's interface with the CMOP and not the actual CMOP operations. In its August 18, 1999, report to OMB, VA did report on the status of renovating the vendor-supplied CMOP dispensing systems and stated that they are on schedule to complete all work to make all seven of the CMOPs Y2K compliant by the end of September 1999.

    Recommendation: To ensure the continued delivery of benefits and health care services to veterans beyond January 1, 2000, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should develop business continuity and contingency plans for VHA CMOPs to ensure an uninterrupted supply of medications to veterans in the event of year 2000 problems at these facilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA concurred with the recommendation. By the end of April 1999, each of the seven CMOPs had submitted business continuity and contingency plans.

    Recommendation: To ensure the continued delivery of benefits and health care services to veterans beyond January 1, 2000, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should set deadlines to complete assessment, renovation, validation, and implementation of VHA facility systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA concurred with this recommendation. On July 30, 1999, VA published a policy directive for facility systems that requires VHA healthcare facilities to identify actions to be taken on utility systems components and interfaces whose Y2K status is non-compliant, conditionally compliant or unknown by September 1, 1999.

    Recommendation: To ensure the continued delivery of benefits and health care services to veterans beyond January 1, 2000, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should complete acceptance testing, full future-date testing, end-to-end testing, and business process stimulation testing on compliant platforms.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA concurred with the recommendation. Both VBA and VHA successfully completed the business process simulation in early July 1999 on compliant platforms. VBA conducted end-to-end testing with Treasury in May 1999. VA has reported that all of its applications, including those supporting benefits delivery and health care, have completed the renovation, verification, and implementation phases and can successfully process Year 2000 dates. It also has completed post-implementation testing to ensure that commercial-off-the-shelf, vendor-certified compliant hardware and software will work in year 2000.

    Recommendation: To ensure the continued delivery of benefits and health care services to veterans beyond January 1, 2000, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should seek the assistance of the Food and Drug Administration and industry trade associations in obtaining information on the year 2000 readiness of specific pharmaceutical and medical-surgical suppliers that did not respond to VHA's survey, and publicize the results in a single data clearinghouse.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA concurred with the recommendation. VA worked with FDA and various other industry associations to obtain and share information on the Y2K readiness of specific pharmaceutical and medical-surgical suppliers, especially those suppliers who had not responded to VHA's supplier survey. VA has updated its survey database and posted results to its homepage. All updated survey results are shared with FDA as they become available.

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