Thursday, May 29, 2014

VA Spent $396K on Appointment Scheduling Software in 2013

    The Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA) posted three notices on fbo.gov in 2013 regarding its intent to purchase appointment scheduling software to correct problems with preparation and delivery of appointment notices to veterans for the VA's compensation and pension clinics. The set-aside contract for software was awarded on September 26, 2013 for $395,949 to Tridec Technologies, LLC, a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) located in Dayton, Ohio. However, the contract award was not listed online at fbo.gov, the online government contracting website. According to an email response from the VA press office, the missing contract award notice was due to an oversight.
    The VA's compensation and pension clinics evaluate veterans for eligibility for disability claims, both physical- and mental-health related. The contract solicitation noted that the clinics "have a mandate to schedule and complete any examinations requested within 30 days." The VA faced several problems with the scheduling process as the documents accompanying the solicitation indicate:
  • [T]he appointment letter mailing process is averaging 7-10 days for the Veteran to receive the information.
  • There is a higher incidence of Veterans not showing for their appointments due to delays in notification. 
  • [S]chedulers are currently unable to edit appointment letters in real time which results in pen & ink changes presenting an unprofessional appearance and increasing the opportunity for errors. 
  • [M]ultiple appointments ... generate multiple letters which cannot be automatically consolidated.  
  • Multiple appointments for different clinics that are under the same service line, print in alphabetical rather than chronological order.  This results in missed appointments as well since our Veterans look at the first appointment listed and assume it represents their arrival time.
    The VA also hoped that the quick turnaround time afforded by email would allow cancelled appointments to be refilled more quickly to cut down on unused time slots and more efficiently utilize the clinics. Regarding implementation, the VA said that "initially this program will be launched at multiple VA’s Compensation and Pension Clinics with the goal to transition to all VA Clinics nationally."
    As noted above, the VA press office informed THE WEEKLY STANDARD in response to an email inquiry that the "lack of post-award synopsis was an oversight". A response has not yet been received to a follow up email asking about the status of the software's implementation and if the VA has plans to expand use of the software beyond the compensation and pension clinics.
    The contract with Tridec Technologies covers twelve months, through September 2014. Tridec lists two contracts with the VA on its website, but neither of the two involve the scheduling software. Tridec has not responded to an inquiry regarding the software contract.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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