The Veterans Affairs Department has expanded its information technology oversight program designed to weed out underperforming IT projects to include all of the agency’s 282 projects.
The program management and accountability system – PMAS – will be used to evaluate and restart or terminate all VA IT projects. The change was effective Feb. 15 but announced by VA’s Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology Roger Baker at a House Veterans Affairs Committee subcommittee on oversight and investigations hearing Feb. 23.
Using the system to evaluate all of VA’s IT projects will give officials greater insight into how the projects are meeting their goals, Baker said.
Projects that are not meeting milestones will be stopped and either restarted or terminated.”
VA officials introduced the system in June 2009, which sets milestones for projects and assesses the future of late or over-budget projects. The VA temporarily halted 45 of its most troublesome IT projects, 32 of which have been restarted, 12 of which have been stopped and one which is still under review. The pauses and cancelations saved $54 million, Baker said.
Baker and U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra will discuss the oversight program’s expansion during a 9:30 a.m. call with reporters Feb. 24.
President Barack Obama said in August he wanted to hear from Veterans Benefits Administration employees on how to improve the agency, and employees are responding.
In the first week, the survey site for VBA employees was visited 29,000 times by 7,000 employees, who submitted more than 3,000 ideas, said U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and VA Chief Technology Peter Levin in a blog post on whitehouse.gov Monday.
Obama said he wants employees to contribute their ideas to solving its claims backlog and improving agency efficiency, and the survey is yielding results, Chopra and Levin wrote. Employees can also vote on the best suggestions on the Web site.
The VA innovation competition will create a new channel for best ideas to rocket right to the attention of the President and Secretary Shinseki, and for the outstanding employee-innovators behind those ideas to get some serious recognition.”
Chopra and Levin expect the survey process to be quick, with results coming in the next few months.
The next step is for the regional office directors to cull through their treasure chest, figure out which jewel they’d like to develop more, and submit it to headquarters. Next, (Benefits) Undersecretary (Patrick) Dunne and his team will pick the fifteen best, and invite them to Washington for an in-person presentation. The winners should be announced in the first couple of weeks of January, and we fully expect regional offices to fast-track the low-hanging fruit.”
The Veterans Affairs Department will soon start a new program to take advantage of VA employees’ expertise nationwide, President Barack Obama said Monday.
Obama announced the program at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Phoenix, Ariz., where he spoke of the agency’s need to better serve veterans. He said asking employees for their ideas can help solve many of the VA’s critical problems, including the backlog of more than half a million veterans’ claims.
Obama said he’d told VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra and Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients to establish a competition to find the very best ideas employees have to improve the VA.
We’re going to challenge each of our 57 regional VA offices to come up with the best ways of doing business, of harnessing the best information technologies, of cutting red tape and breaking through the bureaucracy. And then we’re going to fund the best ideas and put them into action, all with a simple mission: cut those backlogs, slash those wait times, deliver your benefits sooner. I know you’ve heard this for years, but the leadership and resources we’re providing this time means that we’re going to be able to do it. That is our mission, and we are going to make it happen.”
Before departing for its August recess, the Senate approved advance appropriations for the Veterans Affairs’ health programs Thursday, clearing the way for advanced funding of VA hospitals.
Advocates said advance appropriations would ensure consistent, quality health care for veterans in case in case Congress does not pass the annual VA appropriation bill by the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30. VA is currently funded yearly, which has has resulted in late funding for VA programs in 19 of the past 22 years.
The House-passed 2010 spending bill for VA and military construction includes fiscal 2011 health care funding, and the House passed its version, HR 1016, June 23. The Senate passed HR 1016 by unanimous consent after substituting the text of the Senate version of the bill, S 423, for the House’s language in HR 1016.
Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, introduced the Senate bill and championed the bill’s passage. He praised the Senate for providing timely funding for veterans’ care.
Congress has worked in recent years to reverse VA’s chronic underfunding, but we still need to address the broken way that we fund the nation’s largest health care system. With advance funding we will make sure that veterans’ health care receives timely and predictable funding, allowing VA health care dollars to go further for veterans and taxpayers.”
The White House announced six more political appointees Tuesday, including three for the Veterans Affairs Department.
- Roger Baker, nominee for assistant secretary for information and technology, Veterans Affairs. Baker is the former president and chief executive office of Dataline, a technology company in Norfolk, Va. He also is a former chief information officer of the Commerce Department and served on President Barack Obama’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications policy group during his 2008 presidential campaign.
- William Gunn, nominee for general counsel, VA. He represents military members and veterans in his Northern Virginia law practice. He retired in 2005 from the Air Force, where he was a colonel in the JAG corps.
- John U. SepÃºlveda, nominee for assistant secretary of human resources, VA. He is a former deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management, appointed in 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton.
- Anne Castle, nominee for assistant secretary for water and science, Interior Department. She is a partner at Holland & Hart in Denver, where she practices water rights and water quality law.
- Mathy Stanislaus, nominee for assistant administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, Environmental Protection Agency. He is an environmental lawyer and chemical engineer and champions revelopment of brownfield sites.
- Jo-Ellen Darcy, nominee for assistant secretary of the Army (Civil Works), Defense Department. She is the senior environmental adviser for the Senate Finance Committee.
Sen. Daniel Akaka and Rep. Bob Filner plan to introduce bills Thursday to provide advanced appropriations for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Akaka, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Filner, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, have long argued that advanced appropriations will help the VA provide better health care, make needed hires and operate more efficiently.
The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009 would provide the VA with funding one year in advance of the regular appropriations process, according to an Akaka news release.
Akaka, D-Hawaii, and Filner, D-Calif., will announce details of the bill Thursday afternoon at a press conference with veterans organizations, lawmakers and an employee union.
Illinois’ veterans affairs director Tammy Duckworth has been selected as the nominee for assistant secretary of public and intergovernmental affairs for the VA, the White House announced Tuesday morning.
Duckworth is a well-known major in the Illinois National Guard who lost both of her legs in 2004 when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the helicopter she was piloting in Iraq.
As assistant secretary, Duckworth will oversee the public affairs department, internal communications and intergovernmental relations. She will also oversee programs for homeless veterans, special rehabilitation events and consumer affairs.
Duckworth has testified before congressional hearings about the need to transform the VA to accommodate the needs of soldiers returning from the Middle East.
The VA system faces new challenges as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan … The patient profile is changing. More wounded soldiers are surviving very serious injuries.”
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has not scheduled a hearing yet for Duckworth’s confirmation.