Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo today met with Secretary Eric Shinseki and Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs, Joan M. Mooney, of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), to discuss several joint VA and Department of Defense (DOD) projects they are working on to improve services to veterans.
Secretary Shinseki and Assistant Secretary Mooney said they are working with DOD to consolidate their Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems for the services and to ensure that DOD and the DVA have access to the same records. This may make it easier for future veterans to access the VA health care system, and to document service-related disabilities.
In addition, Secretary Shinseki stated that the DVA will be transitioning to a computer-based system for applying for veterans’ benefits, which will improve the processing time for evaluating benefits claims and reduce errors by claims processors. This program should be completed by 2015.
The Congresswoman raised the issue of staffing levels at the Guam VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic and requested assistance in fully staffing the facility. She noted that there seems to be some difficulty in recruiting doctors and retaining them once their contracts have expired. Secretary Shinseki committed to working with Congresswoman Bordallo to address this issue. He suggested that a long term solution may be having DVA sponsor medical students from Guam through tuition assistance in return for a commitment to serve on Guam after they complete medical school.
She also discussed the success of the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program in addressing the issue of homelessness among veterans on Guam and requested additional resources for Guam’s veterans. These vouchers are funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered by the DVA. Secretary Shinseki noted that this program has been very effective nation-wide and that the needs are much greater than the available vouchers.
Further, today on the House floor, Rep. Ron Barber of Arizona offered a motion to recommit H.R. 5972, the Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act, in order to amend the bill to increase funding for veteran rental voucher assistance by $75,000,000 to provide an additional 10,000 vouchers nationwide. Congresswoman Bordallo supported this increase in housing vouchers. Unfortunately, the motion was defeated along party lines by the Republican majority by a vote of 233 to 188.
“I am pleased that Secretary Shinseki and Secretary Panetta are working to implement a seamless medical records system between the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs,” said Congresswoman Bordallo. “Consolidating the Electronic Medical Records system between the DOD and the DVA will help to ensure that veterans receive the quality level of healthcare that they have earned.
“Further, I am encouraged that Secretary Shinseki will look into addressing the shortage of health care professionals assigned to the Guam Community Based Outpatient Clinic. He noted that both DOD and the DVA have had difficulties in attracting doctors and other medical professionals and he indicated that a long term solution may be DVA sponsorship of medical students from our community who would be required to practice on Guam in return for tuition assistance. I thought that this approach could be the basis for a good long term answer to the shortage of doctors, and I look forward to working with Secretary Shinseki to implement this initiative. I am also pleased that he said that he would look into whether there could be additional housing vouchers for homeless veterans on Guam, although this is a HUD-funded program which the DVA implements. It is important that we continue to support our veterans, and I thanked Secretary Shinseki for visiting Guam in May 2011 and for his dedicated service to our veterans on Guam and throughout the country.”