VA Turns to App Developers to Overcome Legacy Tech


The agency is already working with Apple to connect medical records to veterans’ iPhones, and there are more projects on the horizon, according to CIO James Gfrerer.

The Veterans Affairs Department is planning to build more applications that let veterans access benefits and services directly from their personal devices, according to the agency’s top tech official.

In February, the agency unveiled a project with Apple to connect vets’ personal medical records directly to the iPhone’s Health app in near real time. The new tool, which is scheduled to launch sometime this summer, would be the first public record-sharing platform available to the 9 million vets under the agency’s health care system.

But it won’t be the last, according to Veterans Affairs Chief Information Officer James Gfrerer.

“We’re in discussions with other vendors, and there’s more to come,” he said Wednesday at the ACT-IAC Health Innovation Day. “We want to partner more with the rest of the [developer] community. There’s a really bright future with respect to apps, app development and helping veterans and others access our legacy systems.”

Beyond health information sharing, Gfrerer said the agency is exploring applications that help veterans access benefits and locate regional facilities, as well as veteran identification tools. He didn’t offer any details on specific projects.

The department’s foray into public-facing apps is powered by its newly launched API platform, which lets vendors directly link new technologies to internal data. The platform already connects to databases for benefits applications, health information, disability ratings, service history and other information, and Gfrerer said officials will continue building out the platform in months ahead.

“We have a very dated legacy system that we are modernizing as rapidly as we can,” he said. “We believe [during] the transition, the key to our success is this API strategy.”