Lawmaker Wants VA to Explain a Software Tool USDS Flagged as Flawed

Steve Cukrov/

A ProPublica report exposed serious issues in a Veterans Affairs Department software tool.

The House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs will hold a hearing to address “serious concerns” about an allegedly flawed software tool developed by the Veterans Affairs Department to determine whether veterans are eligible for private health care.

Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., is demanding answers following ProPublica's report about an independent review conducted by the U.S. Digital Service.

In its review, USDS suggests that the way the eligibility tool was designed won’t work for VA doctors, and that it would likely generate errors, run slowly or crash. The report suggests the usability and responsiveness issues posed by the tool could lengthen veterans’ appointments by five to 10 minutes for “already time-constrained physician[s],” forcing doctors to see “approximately three fewer Veterans each day.”

“By suggesting that VA’s planned IT solutions are inadequate, and that VA has not given itself enough time to develop a workable system, this report raises real concerns that implementation may be delayed and could even disrupt healthcare for 75,000 veterans every day,” Takano said in a statement.

USDS concluded the Virginia-based contractor building the software, AbleVets, has the capability to build out the tool but it was not granted enough time to complete all that the VA needs. For example, the eligibility tool must pull data from six separate systems within the VA, but the connections between them won’t all be set up in time to meet an initial deadline. There also won’t be enough time to test the tool or address errors, the report states.

Earlier this month, the VA told a House appropriations subcommittee that it needs Congress to authorize $5.6 million for the cost of completing the eligibility tool.

“USDS raises credible concerns that Community Care should have a veteran-centric approach, but despite these critiques, VA appears to be ignoring the problem or at least is unwilling to revisit its approach,” Takano said. “Nowhere is this clearer than VA’s intention to formally request a funding transfer to implement the very IT solutions USDS raises concerns about.”

Takano also added that the committee “will scrutinize the funding transfer request in light of these troubling findings.”

The date of the hearing has not yet been released.