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Veterans Benefits Administration Gets New Communications Chief

By Bob Brewin // September 30, 2014

The Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington, DC.
The Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington, DC. // Charles Dharapak/AP

The Veterans Benefits Administration signed on retired Army Brig. Gen. Lew Boone as its director of corporate communications last week.

Based on his recent career history, Boone does not shirk from tough jobs. In his last military job, Boone served as director of the Army Disability Agency. Before that, he did a one-year tour as public affairs director for the 50-nation International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

Boone started out his Army career as an infantryman and has a parachute badge and a Ranger tab -- which means, if necessary, he knows how to cook snake and jump off the top of VA HQ.

I hope Boone remembers his delayed promise to do the Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range with me. I look forward to the adventure next March. 

No New VA Patient Schedule System Until 2020 (UPDATED)

By Bob Brewin // September 26, 2014

A wheelchair sits outside the Atlanta VA Medical Center.
A wheelchair sits outside the Atlanta VA Medical Center. // David Goldman/AP File Photo

The Department of Veterans Affairs said Sept. 30 it plans to field the scheduling system by 2017. See the new story here

The Department of Veterans Affairs will not install a new patient scheduling system to all of its 153 hospitals and 50,000 users until 2020, according to contract documents released last week.

VA views a new patient scheduling system as key to resolving problems that have consigned veterans to a waiting list limbo for months or years.  In July, acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson told the House Veterans Affairs committee the new scheduling system would be deployed in 2016.

The new timeline for the patient scheduling system, released last week, said VA expects to deploy an “Alpha” version to the first 300 users at two hospitals in 2016. That would be followed by a beta version to 700 users at five hospitals in 2017 and installation at all 153 hospitals in 2020.

Last month, VA said it would issue an RFP for the patient scheduling system by the end of this month, with bids due in 30 days.

VA said it intends to buy commercial software, so why, oh, why, will it take six years to field it?

Joint Staff Dumps Oracle and PeopleSoft Planning Software for Open Source

By Bob Brewin // September 25, 2014

rvlsoft/Shutterstock.com

The Joint Staff currently uses Oracle and PeopleSoft for strategic planning software through a contract managed by a division of the Naval Sea Systems Command.

The Joint Staff runs the software on the Joint Organization Server and a server covering the Office of Secretary of Defense.

NAVSEA said in a contract notice it plans to issue a new contract to MYMIC LLC of Portsmouth, Virginia, for open source planning software to “reduce the high cost of licenses, technical support and custom modifications” with Oracle and PeopleSoft.

NAVSEA did not disclose the cost of the Oracle and PeopleSoft contracts, but did say the cost of the MYMIC deal is $465,306.40 – less than rounding up or down on many a military contract. 

(Image via rvlsoft/Shutterstock.com)

Original VA Blogger Joins Nonprofit

By Bob Brewin // September 24, 2014

The Mission Continues.

Correction: The Mission Continues is headquartered in St. Louis not Washington, as originally reported.

Alex Horton, an Army Iraq veteran and one of the original members of the blogging crew at the Department of Veterans Affairs, has joined The Mission Continues, a nonprofit that engages veterans in community-based project that tap into their skills and expertise. 

Horton graduated from Georgetown University in May.

Horton said in an email he will serve as communications and branding manager for the St. Louis-based outfit in a new Washington, D.C., office. “My immediate responsibilities relate to growth, building partnerships and getting the word out about our programs," he said. 

I hope he drops the branding moniker, a word that grates on my brain unless it refers to cowboys and cattle. 

Is This the Best Source of Ebola Info?

By Bob Brewin // September 22, 2014

A health worker volunteers distribute bars of soap and information about Ebola in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014.
A health worker volunteers distribute bars of soap and information about Ebola in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. // Michael Duff/AP

ReliefWeb, a website operated by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, stands out as a rich source of information on the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa and the international response by governments and nongovernmental organizations worldwide.

Designed for use by humanitarian organizations, ReliefWeb also serves as an in-depth source of information on the Ebola crisis for the general public. The website tracks disasters and health crises worldwide and offers updates by country.

Click on the “Update” tab at the top of the main ReliefWeb page, then filter by country and up pops daily updates including situation reports from the Liberian government and the World Health Organization.

ReliefWeb says its staffers scour over 4,000 sources to “provide reliable disaster and crisis updates and analysis to humanitarians, so they can make informed decisions and plan effective assistance.” 

Content includes country and disaster reports, maps and infographics.