Issues Plague VA’s New Records Management System
The deputy inspector general of the Veterans Affairs Department says the agency’s electronic healthcare, the VA’s new records management system, does not meet minimum quality standards.
The VA has, until recently, used a software program called VistA to manage its healthcare records. In 2017, the agency decided to replace it with a new EHR, or “electronic health records” system.
David Case, the deputy inspector general, pointed to gaps in critical areas such as credibility, construction, and control. The VA, as opposed to the contractor who designed and implemented the system, is responsible for these deficiencies, he added. For every year it takes to implement the new system, the VA must spend almost $2 billion.
According to the latest estimates provided by the VA, the EHR system will not be online until 2028 at the earliest. However, the master schedule provided by the contractor is “blank” from 2023 to 2028. In other words, the VA has no way of knowing whether and when the new system will be ready. For now, the current clunky records management system will have to do.
Health and Service Records in VA Disability Claims
VA medical records, along with the Compensation and Pension (C&P) medical examinations and the Veteran’s service records, are the principal pieces of evidence in a VA disability claim. If some records are unavailable or difficult to access, as is often the case, the veteran’s disability claim could be in jeopardy.
Technically, claims examiners have full access to all VA medical records in the initial stages of a disability claim review. Previously, medical records from different medical facilities, including VA and non-VA facilities, were difficult to assemble in one place. Now, the EHR system allows claims examiners to access all such records at the click of a mouse—at least theoretically. As outlined in the above story, the system does not always work as it should.
Claims Issues With The VA’s New Records Management System
In a claim for disability benefits, the VA will often make an appointment for the veteran for a compensation & pension (C&P) examination at a VA facility. The veteran has little to no control over when the appointment is scheduled, who is conducting the examination, and how much time he or she has with the examiner. Additionally, the qualifications of the examiner, who is often a contractor, can be questionable.
The veteran is free to set his or her own appointments with private physicians and submit those reports to the VA. Often, those physicians will be specialists, will spend more time with the veteran, and are likely to give a more in-depth analysis.
The VA’s New Records Management System And Appeals
In appeals, VA judges often rely on the reports of C&P examiners because they have access to the VA’s electronic health records database, meaning, presumably, they have access to the veteran’s entire health history up to that point in time. In the past, private physicians were not able to access the records system and their reports were not given as much consideration, even though they were more supportive of the veteran’s claim in most cases.
Now, veterans and their private physicians can access the same health records database that C&P examiners and VA attorneys see. This gives veterans more freedom to hire the physicians they want. And do so without fearing that there may be harm done to the claim.
The new system will partner with the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense can upload the veteran’s service records to the system without a long lapse of time.
Currently, a veteran’s service personnel records are not submitted to the VA until a claim is filed. The same is true for service medical records or other service records. Depending on when the military discharged the veteran, a long time can elapse between service and the creation of a claims file. Institutions might lose records, they may go missing without explanation. Or somehow there may be damage to the record. When that happens, vital information can be lost, which jeopardizes a claim.
Non-VA medical records, and Independent Medical Examination (IME) results are supplemental. Also, buddy statements fill in gaps left by missing, incomplete, or nonexistent VA records. The veteran must still submit supplemental records to the VA. Because the VA does not generate supplemental records. In most situations, the veteran or an attorney will request the records and submit them. If a veteran has moved extensively it could result in a complicated process. Under the new claim, certain community providers can partner with the EHR to streamline submission even further.
Contact Hard-Hitting Attorneys
An attorney is a valuable partner in all phases of a disability claim. For a free consultation with an experienced Veterans disability lawyer, contact the Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact box on our website. We are here to represent Veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship.