Defense and VA announce joint plan to build health benefits Web site

The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments plan to establish a joint Web portal to support the needs of wounded, ill or injured service members, officials told lawmakers at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Wednesday.

The eBenefits Web Portal will be based on VA's successful MyHealtheVet Web site, which provides information on health benefits and services. Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England and Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Gordon Mansfield gave a joint statement to the committee, but they did not provide additional details or a launch date.

In August 2007, the Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded called for development of a single portal that would ease access to health and benefits information from the two departments.

England and Mansfield told the committee that their agencies continue to make progress on distributing data and "are securely sharing more electronic health information than at any time in the past." Defense has made inpatient discharge summaries from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany -- the first stop for all casualties evacuated from Afghanistan and Iraq -- immediately available to VA facilities, England and Mansfield said.

Defense and VA also have started to share electronic access to medical provider and clinical notes, problem lists and theater health data, they said. This followed earlier work to impart information on allergies and outpatient and inpatient laboratory and radiology reports.

VA Secretary Dr. James Peake told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Wednesday that data sharing between the departments will aid benefits claims processors as well. VA processors will have greater online access to Defense medical information, he said, as more categories of electronic records are made available through the Compensation and Pension Records Interchange project.

VA is committed to developing secure, interoperable electronic medical record systems with Defense, which was a critical recommendation from the Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded, Peake said. "The availability of medical data to support the care of patients shared by VA and DoD," he said, "will enhance our ability to provide world-class care to veterans and active duty members, including our wounded warriors returning from Afghanistan and Iraq."

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