Tester, Moran, Takano, Bost Statements on Watchdog Reports on VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization Program

(U.S. Senate) – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Ranking Member Mike Bost (R-Ill.) issued the following statements on two reports released today from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) revealing serious issues with the deployment of VA’s new Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program:

“These reports are unacceptable,” said Chairman Tester. “They demonstrate a clear failure by the federal government to uphold its commitment to our nation’s veterans, and speak to the fact that Oracle Cerner needs to step up its game and deliver a functioning, quality system that’ll do right by taxpayers. They are also further proof of why the political games need to end so the Senate can quickly confirm Dr. Shereef Elnahal to serve as VA Under Secretary for Health—a critical leadership role needed to turn this program around.

“A year after the OIG raised issues with VA’s execution of the EHRM program, we are again receiving troubling reports on the EHRM program,” said Ranking Member Moran. “The lack of care the department has provided to veterans impacted by the new system is unacceptable. Today’s reports illustrate patient safety issues that can be traced directly to failures at the highest levels at VA, including the department’s failure to ensure that personnel are candid and open with OIG investigators working to uncover problems in the system. Patient safety and honesty within the VA should be the top priorities, and without those two things, we cannot even begin to address issues with the EHRM system.” 

“We have been concerned about patient safety and the possibility of patient harm from the very beginning of this project,” said Chairman Takano. “We have repeatedly been assured by the highest levels of VA and the program office that no veterans had been harmed by the transition to the Oracle Cerner Millennium product. Today’s report by the VA Office of the Inspector General shows that we had not been given the whole story. I am extremely disappointed by the lack of transparency and expect better from VA.” 

“Today’s VA OIG reports on the persistent problems with the new electronic health records are very concerning. Instead of fixing the issues with the system, VA and Cerner seem much more interested in hiding them. We expect honesty, at the very least, and a plan to resolve the training and referral issues so they never happen again,” said Ranking Member Bost. “Both reports reaffirm exactly what I heard last week with dozens of VA employees and veterans on the ground in Washington state. This program should not move forward anywhere else until the problems in Washington state – and now at other sites – are finally fixed. Timely care for veterans depends on it.” 

The OIG released two reports today outlining issues with the electronic health record system and management. One report detailed serious patient safety and health care operations concerns resulting in nearly 150 cases of harm to patients at VA’s Spokane hospital. An additional report revealed that two of the EHRM program’s officials in charge of change management failed to provide timely, complete, and accurate information in response to OIG requests, which impeded oversight efforts.

Last month, President Biden signed the bipartisan and bicameral VA Electronic Health Record Transparency Act into law. This law will increase transparency by requiring the VA Secretary to submit reports to Congress regarding the costs, performance metrics, and patient safety issues related to the EHRM—areas of concern the VA OIG and Congress have repeatedly identified. Continuing their efforts to increase oversight over the program, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will be leading an oversight hearing on the EHRM program on July 20th.