Weekly Columns

Keeping a Promise This Memorial Day

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Washington, May 22, 2013 | Tiffany McGuffee (202-226-8072) | comments

Earlier this week, deadly tornadoes ripped through the Midwest. The great state of Oklahoma was hit hardest, and I want Oklahomans to know that I speak for the entire state of Tennessee when I say that our thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time. Unfortunately, Tennesseans are no stranger to dangerous storms and we will be as much of a resource as we can while you work to rebuild. Oklahomans are resilient and I truly believe that, with the support of a nation, you’ll come out even stronger than before.

On Monday, we honor our nation’s greatest heroes on Memorial Day. Families, communities and churches across the country will come together to hold ceremonies to honor those that have given their lives in the name of freedom. I hope that this Memorial Day, as a nation nearing the end of a long, hard war, we’ll take a moment to remember the servicemembers that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. There are over 1.6 million returning veterans that served in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2002-2012. These men and women deserve our utmost respect and deepest gratitude. We honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and given their lives for our country, but we also keep our veterans and active duty military in our prayers. Many of them fought alongside the fallen and all have made their own sacrifice through their service.      

Men and women who serve this country, both past and present, deserve a seamless transition back to civilian life when their service is over. Earlier this year, there were over 900,000 veterans waiting for their disability claims to be processed. This has gone on for far too long. Earlier this week, I introduced H.R. 2055, the Integrated Electronic Health Records (iEHR) for Military and Veterans Act. This bipartisan legislation would remedy this backlog by incentivizing the development of an electronic records system that would work for both the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This will ensure our military and veterans receive the world class care they deserve and prevent our veterans from having to face a backlog like this again. We’ve made a promise to these men and women and it’s time we deliver. My bill will start this process.

H.R. 2055 will create a public-private partnership for development of an integrated electronic health record system for our military and veterans. This bill would utilize private American innovation to finally deliver on an iEHR system. This system would enhance the transfer of medical records between the DoD and the VA to help streamline the coordination of care and benefits claims for those that have served.

Already, the DoD and VA have spent more than $1 billion taxpayer dollars on the development of an in-house system, but announced in February that these efforts have been put on hold. The Interagency Program Office, specifically created for iEHR development, spent approximately $362 million in FY2013 alone.  I was pleased that today, DoD Secretary Chuck Hagel made a decision on the Pentagon’s new electronic health record system and I look forward to hearing more details from both he and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

This Memorial Day, let us put our political differences aside and come together to remember and thank those that have served this great country.

Please feel free to contact my office if we can be of assistance to you or your family.
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