Northern Va. tech firms offer to solve scheduling problems at VA hospitals


A group of Virginia tech contractors has offered to help reform the widespread scheduling issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A group of Northern Virginia technology contractors has offered to lend its expertise to help address the widespread scheduling problems facing patients seeking medical care at veterans hospitals.

The Northern Virginia Technology Council, a trade association whose members include some of the region’s biggest information technology contractors, is offering to do the work for the Department of Veterans Affairs on a pro bono basis, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) said in a conference call with reporters Thursday.

Warner, who is spearheading the initiative, sent President Obama a letter this week stressing the need for immediate action on what he termed the department’s “data management” issues. The proposal is supported by five Democrats and four Republicans in the Senate, he said.

“We should ask the private sector to help prepare an assessment of the current I-T and workflow challenges at VA, and ask for a blueprint of potential options to begin addressing these urgent issues,” Warner wrote in the letter.

Warner said he had already spoken with some White House officials, who seemed open to the idea.

“Obviously, the challenges at VA are systemic and cultural,” he said. “But one of the things we can do in the short term is allow veterans who call in to get their medical appointments scheduled.”

An inspector general’s report found that veterans have died waiting for medical care at VA hospitals amid a wider scandal that allegedly involved the ma­nipu­la­tion of appointment records. The scandal forced the resignation of VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki last month.

This is not the first time Warner and the council have floated a private-sector solution to government problems.

In 2010, the same group helped Arlington National Cemetery digitize its paper burial records after an Army inspector general’s report found that mismanagement led to the mislabeling of dozens of graves. Fifteen companies, including Booz Allen Hamilton, Mitre and Science Applications International Corp. provided recommendations to change the system.

Under the Army’s legal terms, contractors could provide only assessments and recommendations to the government at no charge, said Bobbie Greene Kilberg, the council’s president and chief executive.

The same companies were not allowed to bid on any contract that came about as a result of their recommendations, she said.

Christian Davenport contributed to this report. Capital Business is The Post’s weekly publication focusing on the region’s business community. For more Washington business news, go to www.capbiz.biz.

Amrita Jayakumar covers federal government contracting for Capital Business, The Post's local business publication.
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