Snap Fact #254
President Obama's Stimulus Improves Veteran Affairs Health Services by Funding VA Electronic Medical Record System! 
The Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) initiative launched following President Obama's April 9, 2009 direction to the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to create a unified lifetime electronic health record for members of our Armed Services. It will ultimately contain administrative and medical information from the day an individual enters military service throughout their military career, and into the Veteran phase of life. 

The President remarked "Currently, there is no comprehensive system in place that allows for a streamlined transition of health records between DOD and the VA. And that results in extraordinary hardship for a lot of veterans, who end up finding their records lost, unable to get their benefits processed in a timely fashion. I can't tell you how many stories that I heard during the course of the last several years, first as a United States senator and then as a candidate, about veterans who were finding it almost impossible to get the benefits that they had earned despite the fact that their disabilities or their needs were evident for all to see. And that's why I'm asking both departments to work together to define and build a seamless system of integration with a simple goal: When a member of the Armed Forces separates from the military, he or she will no longer have to walk paperwork from a DOD duty station to a local VA health center; their electronic records will transition along with them and remain with them forever. " 

He went on to discuss his proposed budget, which includes the largest single-year increase in VA funding in three decades; an attempt to ensure veterans funding is never again caught up in appropriations politics; a dramatic expansion of coverage; an unprecedented effort to address Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury; funding for a pilot program with not-for-profit organizations to make sure that veterans at risk of losing their homes have a roof over their heads; and finally, the implementation of the new GI Bill to ensure veterans can return to broad opportunity earned by their sacrifices. 

VLER will contain both medical and administrative (i.e. personnel and benefits) information for Service members and Veterans. VLER will provide access to information from day one of a Service member’s military career through transition to Veteran status and beyond. 
To date, the VLER initiative has focused on facilitating the exchange of medical information for health care services among the DoD, VA, and private providers at six joint pilot site locations. VLER aims to complete its first capability area, which focuses on exchanging medical information necessary for a clinical encounter, by July 2012. VLER efforts have expanded to include requirements gathering and analysis for data to support the benefits adjudication processes. 

One of the primary purposes of VLER is to streamline medical and administrative record keeping. With VLER, Service members and Veterans can share comprehensive administrative and health information with their care providers and benefits administrators. This will eliminate the need to bring paper copies of records from one facility to the next. By providing a common access point for all records, VLER will result in: more efficient processing of benefits, better informed clinicians, service, and care providers; improved continuity and timeliness of care; enhanced awareness among all involved parties; and elimination of gaps in records.

The VLER initiative expands on previous DoD/VA data sharing initiatives by including private sector organizations and other federal organizations such as the Social Security Administration. VLER is not an acquisition program and will not result in a single DoD/VA information technology system. The initiative will leverage existing information systems and develop the methods and technology to securely share information among those existing systems. In keeping with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Privacy Act, VLER will comply with rigorous standards of privacy and security to protect patient information. 

VA officials, health information exchange executives and private sector partners point out that VLER is actually serving as a seminal driver of National Health Information Network protocols that will enable any-to-any health information exchange nationwide. 

"The VLER undertaking is truly historic," said Jeff Odell, senior vice president of business development and marketing at MedVirginia. "This initiative involves not just two federal agencies, but also brought in the civilian sector at the same time."