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Opening Statement of Hon. Ginny Brown-Waite, Ranking Republican Member, and a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida

Thank you Mr. Chairman,

This Committee has held at least 16 hearings since 2000, to try and push the sharing of critical medical information on patients being seen or transferred to VA between the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.  The movement of this information between the two departments is vital to the safety and well-being of our veterans and military active duty servicemembers as they transfer between the two agencies and become finally integrated back to civilian life. 

Our staff and members have visited many VA and DoD Medical Centers.  Of particular interest are the four VA poly-trauma centers where servicemembers sustaining severely disabling injuries to include traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and spinal cord injuries are being cared for while still in service, as well as after discharge.  We have frequently heard the concerns of VA doctors and medical personnel at these facilities that the information they are receiving isn’t timely enough, or missing critical information needed to properly treat these severely injured and disabled servicemembers.

Throughout the past 20 years, the VA and DoD have spent billions working on independently stove-piped electronic medical records systems that would provide better care to those serving on the front line of our nation’s efforts for freedom.  Yet, neither to date seem to work together in a coordinated effort of care.  On April 10, 2007, an article appeared in the Washington Post, which touted the VA’s VISTA system as a means to lower costs and provide better treatment to our nation’s veterans.  Can the VISTA system receive information from the Department of Defense?  We have also heard about the Joint Patient Tracking Application (JPTA), which permits the transmission of patient care notes from the battleground up the line to the patient’s final destination, whether for continued care at a VA facility or to prepare for redeployment.  However, in January, the Department of Defense temporarily cut off access to the VA to this critical data.

Today, we have sitting before us both departments.  It is my hope that after two decades, all these attempted starts that finally there is good news on the horizon, and we will finally see a system that will permit the exchange of critical medical information that is interoperable, bi-directional, and occurs in real-time.  The care for those who serve our country does not stop at the exit door of the Department of Defense, but continues through the doors of the VA, and the hand off between the two medical systems should be seamless, not a fumble.  Our nation’s heroes deserve no less.