Year 2000 Computing Crisis

Progress Made in Compliance of VA Systems, But Concerns Remain Gao ID: AIMD-98-237 August 21, 1998

GAO has reported in the past that unless timely corrective action is taken, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) could face widespread computer system failures at the turn of the century because of incorrect information processing involving dates. (See GAO/T-AIMD-97-174, Sept. 1997; GAO/T-AIMD-97-114, June 1997; GAO/AIMD-97-79, May 1997; and GAO/AIMD-96-103, June 1996.) In many systems, the year 2000 is indistinguishable from the year 1900, which could make veterans who are due to receive benefits and medical care appear ineligible. The upshot is that benefits and health care that veterans depend on could be delayed or interrupted. This report assesses the Year 2000 programs of the Veterans Benefits Administration and the Veterans Health Administration.

GAO noted that: (1) VBA has made progress in addressing the recommendations in GAO's May 1997 report and making its information systems year 2000 compliant; (2) it has changed its year 2000 strategy from developing new applications to fixing the current ones and established a year 2000 project office to oversee and coordinate all VBA year 2000 projects; (3) it has also reportedly renovated 75 percent of its mission-critical applications as of June 1998, and completed renovation of two specific mission-critical systems--vocational rehabilitation and insurance; (4) despite this progress, concerns remain; (5) for example, VBA has made limited progress in renovating two key mission-critical software applications: (a) compensation and pension online, which processes claims benefits and updates benefit information; and (b) the Beneficiary Identification and Record Locator Sub-System; (6) VBA also has to reassess its commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products because one of its largest vendors, which initially informed VBA that its products were year 2000 compliant, recently informed VBA that some of its products were not compliant and that others were being assessed and tested; (7) this problem is not unique to VBA--it applies to all consumers of these products; (8) except for its Insurance Service, VBA has not developed year 2000 business continuity and contingency plans for its core business processes; (9) these issues could affect the timely processing of benefits to veterans and their dependents; (10) VHA has also made progress in addressing the year 2000 problem; (11) since September 1997, it has reported having assessed all and renovated the vast majority of its mission-critical information systems and having completed 98 percent of its renovation by June 1998; (12) however, concerns also remain; (13) for example, VHA does not know the full extent of its year 2000 problem because it has not yet completed its assessment of: (a) locally developed software applications or customized versions of national applications used by its medical facilities; (b) COTS products; (c) facility systems; and (d) biomedical devices; (14) VHA's efforts on several of these issues are complicated by the fact that it, like other consumers of these products, has to receive compliance information from the manufacturers, some of which have been slow to respond to VHA's requests for compliance information; (15) like VBA, VHA has not developed year 2000 business continuity and contingency plans; and (16) failure to adequately address these issues could result in disruptions in patient care at VHA medical facilities.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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