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VA will decide on $10 billion Cerner contract this month, official says

By ALLISON KITE | The Kansas City Star (Tribune News Service) | Published: May 12, 2018

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will decide on a $10 billion contract with Cerner by the end of the month, a high-ranking VA official told a U.S. Senate subcommittee.

Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie is expected to make the call by Memorial Day, May 28, nearly a year after former VA Secretary David Shulkin announced the contract with Cerner.

Jon Rychalski, assistant secretary for management and chief financial officer for the department, updated lawmakers on the contract at a U.S. Senate subcommittee meeting this week.

North Kansas City-based Cerner won the no-bid contract last summer because of its existing contract to rebuild the U.S. Department of Defense's health record system, but it got held up this winter. Shulkin said there were questions about how well Cerner's system would work with others, according to Politico.

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After President Donald Trump fired Shulkin, Wilkie needed to do his "due diligence" on the decision, Rychalski said.

"He explains that when he came in, he sort of came in cold," Rychalski said. "He knew what was going on with DoD, not enough about the VA."

Rychalski's announcement came in a line of questioning by U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, who chairs the appropriations subcommittee on military construction and veterans affairs. The subcommittee was evaluating the department's budget request.

VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour said in a statement reaching a decision on the electronic health record effort is one of Wilkie's top three priorities for the short term, "given the importance, magnitude and financial investment that this decision represents for Veterans and the department."

"While VA doesn't typically comment on ongoing contract negotiations, proper due diligence is required to ensure the best interests of veterans and taxpayers are served before the department enters into any agreement of this size and importance," Cashour said.

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