HASC and HVAC Joint Hearing on Transition to Civilian Life

The House Veterans Affairs (HVAC) and the House Armed Services (HASC) Committees held a rare joint meeting this week to review the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) collaboration to assist wounded/disabled service members returning to civilian life. 

When a wounded/disabled service member leaves the military, the responsibility for medical care, benefits and other services transfers from DoD to VA. Currently, the departments work together on this transition but are far from being seamlessly integrated. FRA has a long-standing goal of a truly seamless transition from military to veteran status for all service members. The hearing covered DoD and VA sharing and integration of service and health records, VA’s disability benefits claims backlog, the impact of sequestration, as well as other areas where DoD and VA responsibilities meet.

A critical element of a truly seamless transition is a single electronic health record for active duty military and veterans. The VA and DoD recently announced jointly that the departments are abandoning plans to create a single electronic health record for active duty military and veterans. FRA views this as a step backwards on this issue apparently due to budget pressures and higher costs. There is some sharing now between DoD, and VA, however, wider expansion of data sharing is needed to obtain the goal of a seamless transition. Despite this setback VA and DoD witnesses at the joint committee hearing claimed that VA will have access to DoD medical records by the end of calendar year 2013 and that only four percent of the current backlog of claims are waiting for DoD medical information.