We must protect Central Washington’s Veterans

The Biden Administration must be held accountable for failing to serve Central Washington’s veterans.

This weekend, details on a draft report from the VA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) broke news headlines, outlining that not only did the new Electronic Health Record (EHR) system rolled out at Spokane (and now Walla Walla)’s VA hospitals cause harm to at least 148 veterans, but that Cerner Corporation, which owns the contract for this system, knew their system was flawed and withheld that information from the Department of Veterans Affairs before the system launched. If the problems cited in these reports are true, there’s evidence that the VA knew about these issues, and chose to move forward with the contract anyway.

There have been numerous reports issued by the Inspector General and complaints from veterans throughout Washington State citing issues related to the rollout of this system in Walla Walla and Spokane. More than 11,000 orders for specialty care, lab work, and other services were “lost” by the electronic health record system according to the draft report, resulting in delayed care and even harm to our nation’s veterans. This is completely unacceptable.

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough has claimed to be unaware of “any harm caused by the system,” and committed to halting the launch of the system if he ever had “any reason to think that this is creating risk for our patients.” Yet, according to reports, the VA was briefed on the harm and ongoing risks prior to the system’s launch but moved ahead with their rollout and expanded the system to more facilities.

To say that I’m deeply disturbed by these reports would be an understatement.

Our nation owes a debt to our veterans that we will never be able to repay. Providing them with high-quality medical care is the bare minimum. That this administration would intentionally ignore reports showing that their system was putting our veterans’ lives at risk is a betrayal to the men and women who laid down their lives for this country.

If we in the state of Washington have been chosen as the first of many attempts at this electronic records rollout, we have to be certain the issues we have seen do not happen again at any other place in this country. Now, in this draft report, we have significant proof that these issues exist and have not been addressed.

After being confronted with the contents of the draft report, the VA stated their intent to delay the system’s planned launch in Seattle, Portland, and other large facilities until 2023. We cannot be gambling with our veterans’ lives. While delaying this rollout is a step in the right direction, we must do more. I call on this Administration to immediately deploy resources to the Spokane and Walla Walla VA hospitals to ensure no more records are lost and no more veterans are harmed, and to halt the rollout of this system at all facilities. Meanwhile, I will continue to work with the House Veterans Affairs Committee to hold Cerner and the VA accountable for their failures.


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