Murray, Tester, Brown Push VA to Renegotiate Tougher Electronic Health Record Modernization Contract for Veterans and Taxpayers

Senators call on VA to include stronger accountability provisions as it renegotiates EHRM contract with Oracle Health

Washington, D.C. – Continuing their push to protect veterans and taxpayers, U.S. Senators Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Jon Tester (D-MT), Chair of the Chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to push for stronger accountability provisions in its ongoing contract negotiations with Oracle Health on the Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program. The current contract is slated to expire on May 16, 2024.

“We are writing to urge the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to act to protect taxpayers and veterans through stronger accountability provisions in the ongoing contract negotiations with Oracle Health related to the Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program,” the Committee members wrote in a letter to VA Deputy Secretary Tanya Bradsher. “Last year, we pressed the Department to overhaul its EHRM contract with Oracle Health to provide VA more tools to hold the contractor accountable when the company did not deliver at expected levels…[and w]e were heartened by the Department’s May 2023 announcement of a revised contract with Oracle Health.”

VA’s previous contract from May 2018 had very few mechanisms to hold Oracle Health accountable for its numerous performance failures including system crashes, poorly tested software solutions that led to patient safety incidents, and insufficient training programs. The Senators highlighted years of VA oversight’s of the contractor “that lacked sufficient accountability”—compounding these systemic problems.

Following sustained efforts from the Senators to deliver veterans and VA medical staff a safer and better functioning EHR, VA’s renegotiated contract from May 2023 included stronger accountability provisions. This included setting higher standards for system reliability and contractor responsiveness and larger penalties when Oracle Health does not meet the expected standards. The contract also changed from a five-year term to five one-year terms, giving VA the opportunity to review Oracle Health’s progress every 12 months and renegotiate terms as appropriate to ensure they are delivering for veterans, VA employees, and taxpayers.

The Senators concluded, “While there have been some improvements to Oracle Health’s performance in the last 12 months, significant challenges remain… After years of veterans not receiving the care they deserve and VA staff not getting the system they need, the Department must take all steps possible to ensure VA is getting the services it purchased at a fair price and that Oracle Health is living up to its commitments. We encourage you to use the opportunity the new contract structure provides to re-review terms and add additional accountability and oversight provisions to protect veterans and taxpayers.”

Read the Senators’ full letter HERE.

Murray has an extensive record of strong oversight of VA’s new EHR system, dating back to the Trump administration’s original negotiation of the then-Oracle contract; earlier this month she sent a letter to McDonough urging VA to consider feedback from providers and veterans in Spokane and Walla Walla as the agency evaluates the future of the EHR, and reiterating that VA must not move forward on the rollout of EHR until the myriad issues that have plagued the system in the locations where it has been launched, including in Spokane and Walla Walla, are fixed. Earlier this month, Murray questioned VA Secretary Denis McDonough on the EHR reset and funding she secured for VA. Last year, Murray, helped introduce the EHR RESET Actto deliver a complete overhaul of the EHRM program. The legislation includes provisions to restructure, enhance, and strengthen the entire EHRM program, while also mandating aggressive reporting to Congress to increase oversight, accountability, and transparency following a series of challenges with the system and program. Bipartisan companion EHR RESET Act legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.