Anti-Trump Lawmakers Push Bill to Scrap Trump-Era Win for Veterans’ Health Care

FILE - In this April 2, 2015, file photo, a visitor leaves the Sacramento Veterans Affairs
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) are pushing a healthcare bill that could undermine one of former President Donald Trump’s signature Veterans Affairs (VA) reforms.

The VA is the largest health system in the country; however, its health record system has been plagued by a dilapidated record management system. Under President Donald Trump’s administration, the VA moved to update veterans’ health records to be seamlessly transferred from the Defense Department to the VA. The move has been cited frequentlyby the Trump administration as one of the key reforms the 45th president carried out for America’s veterans.

In 2018, then-Acting Secretary Robert Wilkie signed a contract with Cerner, which is now owned by Oracle, to modernize the health care IT system and provide seamless care to veterans when they transition from military service to veteran status.

“President Trump has made very clear to me that he wants this contract to do right by both Veterans and taxpayers, and I can say now without a doubt that it does,” Wilkie said in the statement signing the contract.

He added, “In sum, signing this contract today is an enormous win for our nation’s Veterans.  It puts in place a modern IT system that will support the best possible health care for decades to come.  That’s exactly what our nation’s heroes deserve.”

President Donald Trump is presented with a cap by World War II veterans, seated from left, Sidney Walton, Allen Jones, Paul Kriner, and Floyd Wigfield, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, April 11, 2019. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Despite the progress that has been made to update the VA’s electronic health record system, anti-Trump lawmakers are pushing legislation that could undermine Trump’s legacy that aided America’s veterans.

This week House and Senate Veterans Committee leaders, including Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester and other leaders, released H.R. 8371, the Senator Elizabeth Dole 21st Century Veterans Healthcare and Benefits Improvements Act, which is aimed improving the delivery of health care for veterans and their families.

Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT), the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Technology Modernization, is also pushing the legislation, which could undermine Trump’s move to improve the VA health record system. He has also attacked Oracle’s progress on transitioning the record system.

Tester frequently opposed Trump’s administration and policies, including saying that Trump’s alleged racism was dividing the country.

Rosendale, a Republican, refused to take a phone call from Trump during the Speakership fight at the beginning of this congressional term. In an a now-infamous image, Rosendale can be seen giving Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) the “Heisman” as she tries to pass the phone to him and snubbing Trump. Rosendale had long refused to endorse Trump.

Matt Rosendale (R-MT) (L) refuses to talk with former President Donald Trump on a phone being offered by Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) during the last moments of a contentious debate on the fourth day of voting for a new Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 07, 2023, in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Greene later said that Rosendale “cannot be trusted” since he turned his back on Trump, only to “beg” for his endorsement when he wanted to get reelected.

Despite its aim to help veterans, the proposed legislation has concerning provisions that could undermine the progress Trump made to modernize electronic records at the VA. Title V of the provision is the EHRM RESET Act, which has several worrisome provisions that could lead to delays in the restart of the EHRM, or electronic health record modernization, and could even cause the program to end in two years, which could lay waste to the billions of dollars and years of effort spent to improve the record management system.

The same process to modernize electronic health records is already deployed at the Department of Defense (DOD), showing that the process works and can be successfully used to modernize the health records at the VA.

Some of the concerning programs of Title V of the legislation:

  • Section 511 creates a new health information technology program.
    • The VA already has three major ongoing technology modernization efforts.
  • Section 522 creates two sets of certifications that need to be achieved to move forward from the reset.
    • The certification structure pushes a patchwork system approach and the customization that led to the lack of interoperability with VistA, the previous record system.
    • This certification system removes the authority of the VA Secretary to decide for the Department and instead delegates it to more than 150 site directors.
  • The fiscal 2024 Military Construction appropriations bill already takes a more strategic approach to setting metrics to determine the progress of the EHRM reset.
  • Section 523 creates a two-year cliff for the EHRM program that would force sites to go back to VistA, the previous record program.

Essentially, the provision in the legislation puts the EHRM program in jeopardy when progress is being made to improve the process for the VA.

In April, VA Secretary Denis McDonough praised the Department’s rollout of the EHR system as “successful” and said the “feedback was very positive.”

“One measure of success there is the speed with which we’ve returned to a higher level of pre-deployment appointments for veterans,” McDonough said at a House Appropriations hearing. “So, overall, that deployment has been on the high level of expectations.”

Despite there being so many provisions that could undermine Trump’s legacy on Veterans Affairs, it remains unclear if House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) will allow this legislation to continue with these controversial provisions. Veterans Affairs lawmakers are pushing the Speaker to pass the legislation right before Memorial Day.

“It’s hardly surprising that Matt Rosendale — who is heading for the exits following an aborted Senate run and a suspiciously abrupt decision not to seek reelection — is helping Biden and the Democrats scrap yet another Trump era win,” a source close to Trump told Breitbart News. “But it is astonishing that House Republican leadership is considering the possibility of lending him a hand. After almost two years of delivering zero wins for our voters they’re moving on to undoing previous wins.”

Sean Moran is a policy reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.


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