Veterans Health Administration Facility Systems:

Some Progress Made In Ensuring Year 2000 Compliance, but Challenges Remain

AIMD-98-31R: Published: Nov 7, 1997. Publicly Released: Nov 7, 1997.

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Joel C. Willemssen
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided additional information on Year 2000 initiatives at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), focusing on the Veterans Health Administration's (VHA) failure to complete an inventory of the elevator, heating, air conditioning, lighting systems, and disaster recovery systems at its hospitals.

GAO noted that: (1) ensuring Year 2000 compliance for facility-related systems, as well as disaster recovery or backup systems, is a critical problem for both public and private organizations; (2) many facilities built or renovated within the last 20 years contain embedded computer systems that control, monitor, or assist in operations, and many of these systems could malfunction due to vulnerability to the Year 2000 problem; (3) addressing the facility-related systems problems is especially critical for VHA, because it oversees 173 medical centers, 376 outpatient clinics, 133 nursing homes, and 39 domiciliaries; (4) VHA has made some progress, including: (a) its Year 2000 project office has begun to develop a centralized inventory for the facility-related systems at its health-care facilities and has established a project team to pull together a list of facility-related systems manufacturers; (b) its medical centers are developing an inventory and assessing their facility systems for Year 2000 compliance; and (c) VHA is working with the Chief Information Officer Council's newly formed Year 2000 Building Systems Subgroup on facility-related systems issues; and (5) VHA faces some major challenges, including: (a) it has a very short time frame to address the Year 2000 computing problem; (b) manufacturers may not promptly respond to VHA and may not know whether their products are Year 2000 compliant; (c) VHA is largely dependent upon manufacturers to determine whether a Year 2000 problem exists and how problems will be corrected; and (d) VHA must implement the manufacturers' recommendations for achieving Year 2000 compliance, validate the systems, develop contingency plans for failures and errors, and coordinate contingency plans with disaster recovery plans.

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