In a letter sent this week to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a group of 24 House lawmakers requested an explanation for why the Department of Defense plans to redirect $708 million from the Defense Health Program after it proposed to raise health insurance fees in TRICARE, The Hill's "DEFCON Hill" reports.
The letter -- written by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) -- cited DOD's $8 billion reprogramming request submitted in June, which includes shifting the health care funds to other "higher priorities" in the department.
According to "DEFCON Hill," the reprogramming request was made while Congress and the Pentagon debated the proposed fee increases. Congress recently rejected the proposal in its annual authorization and appropriations bills.
The lawmakers asked Panetta for a Pentagon briefing on where exactly the health care funds would be moved to and vowed to block the reprogramming request until DOD explains its plans (Herb, "DEFCON Hill," The Hill, 7/26).
Panetta Expresses Frustration Over Joint-EHR System Delay
Meanwhile, at a joint hearing of the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs committees on Wednesday, Panetta expressed his frustration over the lack of cooperation between DOD and the Department of Veterans Affairs on several projects, including the implementation of an integrated electronic health record system, Nextgov reports.
President Obama announced the joint EHR system project in 2009, but DOD and VA have said they do not expect to fully implement the system until 2017, according to Nextgov. Panetta -- who testified at the hearing with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki -- said the cultures of the two departments "resist change" and "coordination," despite the close working relationship between them. "We've just got to kick ass and try to make it happen ... And that's what we're going to do," Panetta added.
During a July 18 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, VA Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey said the processing time of veterans' health claims has increased because DOD currently sends VA paper files instead of electronic records (Brewin, Nextgov, 7/26).