One of the most important issues facing the Department of Veterans Affairs is how to create an electronic health record that is compatible and interoperable with the health records of service members in the Department of Defense. This bill fully supports the Information Technology request, and encourages the departments to use open source architecture in developing a common and usable electronic health record.
The recommendation also includes $86 million for the Board of Veterans Appeals, an increase of $8 million over the budget request. The justification accompanying the budget request projects that the Board's average time to resolve a disability claim on appeal will be 650 days in fiscal year 2013. The VA also projects the appeals backlog will grow to almost 66,000 claims in 2013 from the current projected level of 39,000. This is unacceptable. The funding increase in this bill will support additional personnel to assist in reducing the wait time and backlog.
Mr. Chairman, I greatly appreciate the manner in which Chairman Johnson and the subcommittee staff have worked in a cooperative and bipartisan manner on this bill. I know that the Ranking Member of the subcommittee, Senator Kirk, feels the same. Senator Kirk was actively involved in the formulation of this bill. His staff flew to Chicago to discuss the bill with him and get his guidance, and I personally spoke with him on the telephone about it. He supports the bill and asks that I cast his vote by proxy in favor of the bill. I was happy to do so.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.