VA Y2K Challenges:

Responses to Post-Testimony Questions

AIMD-99-199R: Published: May 24, 1999. Publicly Released: May 24, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO responded to congressional concerns regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) efforts to address the year 2000 computer problem, focusing on: (1) VA's ability to achieve year 2000 compliance; (2) VA's work to date on the year 2000 challenge; (3) what areas VA should concentrate on over the next six months to ensure that its highest risks areas are addressed prior to January 1, 2000; (4) identifying any areas where VA has misdirected its efforts; and (5) VA's greatest strengths in the effort to surmount the year 2000 challenge.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO believes that actions VA has taken will help minimize year 2000 disruptions; (2) however, VA has work remaining to ensure that it can deliver benefits and health care into the next century; (3) the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) must still complete testing of their mission-critical systems to determine if the systems are year 2000 compliant; (4) the specific tests to be carried out include systems-acceptance and end-to-end tests; (5) even after testing is done, VA's vulnerability to business-process-system failures remains; (6) VA still risks encountering unanticipated year 2000 problems, since its systems may contain erroneous date codes not uncovered during the year 2000 related testing; (7) VA has developed business continuity and contingency plans; (8) as of January, VBA completed a draft business continuity and contingency plan for its core business processes, as well as a related planning template for its regional offices; (9) the plan addresses risks, including mitigation actions to reduce the impact of year 2000-induced business failures, and analyzes the effect on each business line of a number of potential year 2000 disasters; (10) testing of the plan is scheduled for August 1999; (11) VA continues to make progress in renovating, validating, and implementing its mission-critical systems; (12) VA reported that it had renovated and implemented all of the mission-critical applications supporting its 11 systems areas; (13) the most critical areas in which VA needs to focus during the remainder of 1999 include: (a) completing year 2000 testing of VBA and VHA mission-critical systems; (b) setting deadlines to ensure that VHA's facilities systems are year 2000 compliant; (c) ensuring that VHA's consolidated mail outpatient pharmacy systems are year 2000 compliant; and (d) conducting business continuity testing to evaluate whether VBA and VHA contingency plans are capable of providing the desired level of support to VA's core business processes and whether the plans can be implemented within a specified period of time; (14) GAO has not found any areas where VA has misdirected its efforts in the year 2000 problem; (15) one of VA's greatest strengths is the designation of year 2000 as the department's top information technology priority; and (16) another strength of VA's is that it has been very responsive in dealing with the year 2000 challenge and in implementing key recommendations for improving its year 2000 efforts.

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