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Veterans Affairs Announces Plans to Adopt Medical Records System Pentagon Uses

by Andrew Rafferty, Hallie Jackson and Courtney Kube /
U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin takes a question during a news conference at the White House in Washington on Monday, June 5, 2017.Michael Reynolds / EPA

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The Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday announced it will adopt the same electronic health records system the Pentagon uses in an effort to improve coverage for veterans and better serve their medical needs after they leave the military.

At the White House press briefing Monday, VA Secretary David Shulkin lamented the current outdated system used by his agency which has made coverage for veterans both slower and more costly.

"It’s time to move forward, and as secretary I was not willing to put this decision off any longer," Shulkin said.

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Shulkin said he did not come to the decision to transition to the Pentagon’s commercial software system, called MHS Genesis, lightly. But that it is in his department’s best interests to phase out VA-created system currently in use.

Related: Veterans Affairs: Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Stalled Accountability Bill

“Without improved and consistently implemented national interoperability standards, VA and DOD will continue to face significant challenges if the Departments remain on two different systems,” Shulkin said.

He said the VA will spend the next three to six months developing its plan to implement the new system and its cost. Shulkin said he signed a waiver bypassing competitive bidding and awarded it to the Kansas City based company Cerner “because of the urgency and the critical nature of this decision.”

He did not say how much it would cost.

In remarks Monday, President Donald Trump called the move “one of the biggest wins for our veterans in decades.”

Officials at the VA told NBC News the announcement is a “major course correction” that will enable interoperable health records between the departments.

Related: Whistleblowers Claim Retaliation for Revealing VA Horrors

The CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said he was cautiously optimistic about the announcement, which looks to move forward on an idea which has been kicked around for years.

“Seamless electronic record-keeping has vexed the government for far too long,” IAVA head Paul Rieckhoff said in a statement. “Time and time again, from multiple administrations, IAVA members have seen big promises on this problem that were never fulfilled ... The Trump administration’s focus today on solving this problem is encouraging. But making this announcement is the easy part. The hard part is actually getting it done.”

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