The Veterans Affairs Department denies claims that systems or data are in danger. But Jerry Davis, the former deputy assistant secretary for information security in VA’s Office of Information and Technology, asserts in documents that he was bullied into signing security certifications that were deficient as a condition of his departure from VA for a new job at NASA.
A recent briefing between the House Veterans Affairs Committee, VA IT executives and DHS ended with the lead majority staff member walking out before the meeting ended. The rising tensions between the House Veterans Affairs committee’s majority and VA come as a report surfaced showing veterans are at a higher risk of identity theft than the average citizen.
Documents obtained by Federal News Radio show VA’s financial audit found material weaknesses, including the failure to remove terminated employees from accessing the network, and the lack of a formal process for monitoring, preventing installation and removing unauthorized application software on agency systems. House Veterans Affairs lawmakers continue to press VA to make changes to their cybersecurity posture more quickly. VA officials say they have a multi-layered defense to include outside network monitoring by external partners, active scanning of Web applications and source code, and protection of servers, workstations, network and gateways, among other security efforts.
Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced the measure that includes dozens of provisions that expand benefits and hiring programs and grants advance appropriations to most of the Veterans Affairs’ accounts. Senate Veterans Affairs chairman suggested paying for the changes by reducing DoD’s wartime budget.
Cash, drugs and science experiments are all part of VA’s fiscal 2015 budget request.
The VA secretary promised the Senate Thursday that he will impose accountability for extended hospital wait times that may have led to veteran deaths, but not until investigations have run their course.
Allison Hickey, VA’s undersecretary for benefits, said VBMS has transformed the agency from a paper system to one that mostly relies on electronic data. Some lawmakers express concern about the way the agency is measuring how it reduces the number of veterans waiting for benefits.
The Veterans Affairs Department says its claims backlog is far below its peak of three years ago. VA credits its progress to several changes under the Veterans Benefits Management System or VBMS. Federal News Radio’s Executive Editor Jason Miller joined Tom Temin and Emily Kopp on the Federal Drive and described how VA is reducing the claims backlog. Read Jason’s related article.
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will consider the nomination of Robert McDonald as the next VA Secretary tomorrow. If the Senate confirms him, he’ll inherit a Veterans Health Administration that hasn’t had a major review of its healthcare system since the mid-1980s, according to the Military Officers Association of America. Vice Admiral Norb Ryan is president of MOAA. On In Depth with Francis Rose, he said Congress and the White House should build a commission focused on reforming the VHA.
Employees at the headquarters at the Department of Veterans Affairs have the ear of Congress. The Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee — Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) — tells In Depth with Francis Rose his most recent visit to VA included discussions with employees at every level of the agency.