After two years without an increase, the Veterans Affairs Department requested a $3.37 billion information technology budget in 2013, up $216 million, or slightly less than 7 percent, from $3.11 billion in 2012. Just over $2 billion or 62 percent of that budget would be devoted to health care systems deployed to 152 department hospitals.
VA’s request includes $169 million to develop an integrated electronic health record system with Defense, a plan announced by the two departments in March 2011. This is a 75 percent jump from the $43 million included in the 2012 joint health record budget.
VA also requested $52.9 million for another joint project with the Defense Department, the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record, which will cover service members and veterans from the time they enlist until they are buried in a VA cemetery. The program’s 2012 budget is $66.3 million.
The department also requested a $1.45 billion budget to operate and maintain its vast IT systems, which consist of 360,000 desktop computers, 70,000 printers, 40,000 laptops and 16,000 servers. This marks a small, $80 million increase from the 2012 operations and maintenance budget.
The 2013 budget reveals that VA may be having second thoughts about hosting its electronic health records in data centers operated by the Defense Information Systems Agency.
VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker said in January that the department planned to consolidate data centers that support its Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) electronic health records in centers operated by DISA. But the budget documents note this “option is predicated on DoD allowing VA to administer an enclave within DISA facilities. These would be small VA centers within existing DoD data centers with VA [wide area network] feeds and remotely administered by VA personnel.”
VA said it now plans to set up its own consolidated interim data centers in Austin, Texas, Reading, Pa., Martinsburg, W.Va., and Denver, Colo. “In the future, as the DISA option matures, it will be relatively simple to redirect procurements and equipment to DISA centers if that is needed,” VA said.