A bipartisan group of senators has introduced the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) IT Reform Act, which aims to increase congressional oversight of agency IT and would require VA to provide reports on IT projects before they begin.

The legislation was introduced March 16 by Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. The bill also would require VA to provide an annual list of unfunded IT projects and report to Congress when major IT projects miss milestones and deadlines.

“When veterans aren’t getting their earned benefits as a result of poor planning or IT system failures at VA, we’ve got to hold the Department accountable,” Sen. Tester, chairman of the Senate VA Committee, said in a press release. “This is especially critical as more folks seek care and services from VA as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Our bipartisan bill will increase transparency and provide VA with the right tools to deliver 21st-century technology systems that work for all veterans.”

The annual list of unfunded IT projects would be provided to Congress primarily to improve the budgeting process. The list would include how each project ranks in terms of priority to other department projects, its funding requirements, and IT equipment and infrastructure requirements, among other project descriptors.

The list of unfunded projects also would include a list of legacy systems that need to be replaced, as well as IT budget estimates for one year, five years, and 10 years out.

“Outdated IT systems inhibit the VA from delivering timely services to our veterans and put other sensitive information at risk,” Sen. Moran, ranking member of the Senate VA Committee, said. “This legislation would help bring the department’s technology into the 21st-century by requiring the VA to institute reforms to its IT systems to ensure our veterans are receiving the care and services they deserve.”

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.