Senate passes 2018 VA appropriations bill, to 'reevaluate' Cerner EHR funding at later date

The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved its fiscal year 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill in a 31-0 vote July 13.

The bill includes $88.9 billion in discretionary funding across various agencies, up $6.1 billion from 2017. It also earmarks $78.4 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, a $4 billion increase over last year.

However, the bill does not allocate additional funding for the VA's transition to the Cerner EHR. VA Secretary David J. Shulkin, MD, announced the shift to Cerner June 5. The Senate Appropriations Committee said the announcement did not provide the committee enough time to ascertain how the cost of a new EHR will compare with the cost to fund the VA's homegrown EHR, VistA, which is currently in use at the department.

"It can be assumed the VA total cost will exceed previous estimates for VistA Evolution," the bill reads. "To that end, in its oversight capacity, the [appropriations] committee will reevaluate [along with] the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives, the constraints on the obligation or expenditure of funding for the new acquisition at the appropriate time."

By contrast, the House Appropriations Committee cleared its 2018 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill June 12, allocating $65 million to modernize that VA's EHR system. The $65 million is the same amount President Donald Trump had requested.

Click here to view the Senate bill.

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