WASHINGTON, D.C. - Chairman Daniel Akaka and Ranking Member Larry Craig of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs announced today they are pleased that the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have taken steps to correct a situation that could have become life-threatening to some seriously wounded servicemembers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and receiving care from VA.
"We are a nation at war and it is our duty to make sure veterans receive the best medical care we can provide. I am pleased that DoD and VA have been able to ensure that medical staff at VA now have the access they need to important DoD patient data," said Chairman Akaka (D-Hawaii).
In September of last year, VA medical professionals at its four Polytrauma Centers gained access to a DoD medical database, known as the Joint Patient Tracking Application (JPTA). VA's Polytrauma doctors found the information extremely helpful at providing the appropriate continuum of care, especially when treating brain injuries. But several weeks ago, Department of Defense stopped providing the data while VA and DoD negotiated a legal agreement on sharing patient data.
Today, DoD officials returned access to VA's medical professionals. VA officials have informed the two senators that they are extremely pleased to have access restored.
"This appears to be a bureaucratic legal snafu. I am glad that Senator Akaka and I were able to bring this to the decision makers, and I am pleased DoD moved swiftly to correct this situation. Frankly, it's unfortunate that it took our efforts to help resolve this," said Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), who serves as the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
Earlier this month, the top Senators on the Veterans' Affairs Committee sent a letter to Dr. David Chu, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, asking him to remedy the situation as quickly as possible. Below is the text of their letter:
February 6, 2007
The Honorable David S.C. Chu
Under Secretary of Defense
Personnel and Readiness
4000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-4000
Dear Dr. Chu:
We are writing to express our deep concern about a recent decision by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) to terminate VA access to DoD's Joint Patient Tracking Application (JPTA).
During a visit to VA's Richmond Polytrauma Center, Committee staff discovered that VA's JPTA accounts were recently disabled while a VA/DoD patient data agreement is reached concerning the exchange and interoperability of the agencies' patient data. We understand that since September 2006 VA's Polytrauma Center physicians have had access to this valuable tool for tracking a patient's continuum of care. Withholding VA's access to this data may adversely impact the quality of care VA can provide. We request that you reinstate physician access to JPTA at VA's Polytrauma Centers while negotiations continue on the larger VA/DoD patient data sharing agreement. In your response, please address the current status of negotiations.
We also request that VA's Polytrauma Physicians be given access to all available radiologic imaging conducted by DoD for its patients who are subsequently cared for by VA. We understand imaging currently available to VA physicians for war wounded or injured does not include those taken in-theater or during medevac back to the U.S. For those servicemembers suffering from a traumatic brain injury, VA's access to in-theater imaging is an important and valuable tool for tracking their patient's progress since being wounded or injured.
For the benefit of servicemembers receiving care from VA's Polytrauma Centers, we request your immediate attention and response. Should you or your staff have any questions the Committee point of contact is Ted Pusey, (202) 224-9126.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Daniel K. Akaka
Larry E. Craig
February 16, 2007