Veterans Affairs:

Subcommittee Post-Hearing Questions Concerning the Department's Information Technology Management

GAO-03-261R: Published: Nov 5, 2002. Publicly Released: Nov 5, 2002.

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Linda D. Koontz
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The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) has made progress in improving its overall management of information technology, including centralization of information technology functions, programs, and funding under the department-level chief information officer (CIO). The department has also made progress in developing an enterprise architecture, improving information security, and managing important information systems initiatives being pursued by the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). GAO reviewed (1) whether VA's proposed business and enabling functions provide the management tools necessary to start the process for implementing VA's enterprise architecture; (2) how veterans have benefited from the VETSNET Program; (3) what must be done to assure successful implementation of the Federal Health Information Exchange (FHIE); and (4) whether VA can realistically implement HealtheVet-Vista by the end of 2005. GAO found that the Federal CIO's Council's guidance on enterprise architecture advises organizations to develop a set of controls to help them successfully manage the process of creating, changing, and using an enterprise architecture. Although the enterprise business functions and key enabling functions are essential components of the architecture that VA is developing, they cannot be considered a primary tool for managing the enterprise architecture effort. Although VBA has spent more than $40 million since 1996 on developing the VETSNET compensation and pension replacement, veterans have not received measurable benefits from this initiative. Successful implementation of FHIE will largely depend on the extent to which consistent and effective project management and oversight exists to guide the initiative. Beyond FHIE, VA and the Department of Defense (DOD) have envisioned a long-term strategy--HealthePeople--involving the two-way exchange of patient health care information. This exchange is expected to depend on the successful interoperability, and resultant sharing of secure health care data, between DOD's Composite Health Care System II and VA's HealtheVet VISTA, both of which continue under development.

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