House Veterans Affairs Hearing on GI Bill Payments, Nov 15, 2018



good afternoon everyone the subcommittee will come to order I'm gonna apologize in advance for the length of my remarks but I think they're important so let's let's begin first again thanks for everybody being here and everybody participating in the hearing the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity where we'll continue the oversight the implementation of post 9/11 GI Bill of 2017 and associated payment processing delays as I said in the two previous hearings this subcommittee is held on this topic it is critical that we work to ensure that this bill is implemented so that veterans receive their due benefits they deserve in the in timely and consistent manner after all of all we do is pass reform bills are just kind of a memo to the file unless the VA actually implements them effectively when you agree so our hearing that we had on July sometime in July we implored the VA officials who were here to remedy whatever problems existed and we were promised that they would be addressed in a matter of weeks days if not weeks we were also sure that delays would be shortened and would not significantly impact students however as we sit here almost four months later it's clear that the VA missed on those predictions as well and the student veterans now finding themselves in pretty bad situation and we're hearing from them and this may be the worst in terms of implementation and and problems and burdens placed on our student veterans since the 2010 GI bill changes due to increased workload and continued IT failures a large number of student veterans have contacted members of Congress and VSOs with complaints of extended delays and receiving monthly housing allowance payments and while VA the VA has made some attempt at helping these students and we recognize and appreciate that I'm still concerned that the V ace put out confusing public messages and IT deficiencies we'll continue to put veterans at risk these veterans as you know are relying on these payments to pay rent and put food on the table this is no small thing they should no doubt get answers to why these delays are occurring and what is the VA doing to address the situation one of the main reasons for these persistent setbacks is the continued delay in making modifications to the long term solution or LTS the IT system to properly implement section 107 of the law this section changed the way the VA calculated living stipend payments for students from being based on where school was headquarters to being based on where the student was taking the majority of their classes at the subcommittee's hearing in July we were told that the modifications would be completed by mid-august once once this date was missed VA has never given the committee another estimated date of completion unfortunately we're about to hear from dr. Lawrence the modifications to the IT system are still not ready and VA still does not know when they will be ready to deploy the proper payments to GI bill recipients I find these delays are simply unacceptable I'm sure my colleagues feel the same way and I'm very interested to hear from the VA oh I NT staff and representatives from bruise Allen that'd be the office of information technology and Booz Allen Hamilton is the contractor over this project well I'm certainly not an IT expert I cannot understand why 15 months after this law was passed we were sitting here asking these questions I'm also concerned that when these modifications are finally ready for deployment the VA s current IT system will not be able to handle the workload this concern was crystallized by an oversight visit that John and some of the other committee staff members took to Muskego Oklahoma where they have a regional you guys have a regional processing center on the visit staff found dedicated employees trapped in a system with aging IT and lecture that crashed so often that simple task that should have taken five minutes were taking 45 minutes staff also learned that between April and September VA managers in musk musk Iggy had to write off sixteen thousand eight hundred and ninety man-hours due to system crashes or latency issues committee staff said that they witnessed the system while they were there crashed no fewer than five times in ten minutes during a demo while the Aoi and tea staff continued to look for ways to address these issues we've learned that senior VA leaders sent a team of their best quote unquote programmers only after the committee staffs visit it shouldn't take a congressional oversight visit for the VA to address these issues raised a number of times over the last 15 months it's also clear that updating the monitors and modernizing the half-a-dozen systems needed to complete a GI Bill claim has not been a priority for the department as a result student veterans are now paying the price for VA ignoring and putting band-aids on this problem we believe for years I can only begin to imagine the mess VA will have on its hand when these already tax systems will be used to process the hundreds of thousands of claims that will have to be reworked when the modifications to LT s are ready what is even worse as the VA will be doing this rework during the same time they typically begin processing claims for the spring semester this means that while the current inventory of GI Bill claims has been worked down I'm very worried that schools and students have not seen the worst of payment delays as I've repeatedly said many too many of the hearings and many of the issues covered not only in the subcommittee but at the under the leadership of Chairman Rowe it seems like mr. chairman the root cause has been IT infrastructure and getting the right IT solutions and managing the IT systems effectively we saw this earlier in the year with the voc rehab case management tool in this committee another Booz Allen Hamilton project where the department wasted 12 million dollars an IT system with nothing to show for it and now we're seeing these problems rising you know the GI Bill with delays for some veterans stretching over 60 days some of these guys are going to have some real hardships real hard maybe even personal family crises as a result of this I understand the systems are old and complex it is well past the point where Congress taxpayers and most importantly our student veterans are going to accept the the same tired excuses Congress consistently is provided the VA with record budgets that's that's clear and think the vague answers we've gotten and we've sent a lot of letters we've had inquiries we've had personal meetings I think that the answers were getting and the delays and that promises that we'll have it fixed that end up not happening or unacceptable again I think I can speak for the committee to say that and we're all concerned about our veterans dr. Lawrence and mr. James I hope you can shed some light on what you and secretary Wilkie are planning to do to address these problems I hope you can tell us when the LTS modifications will be ready give students veterans simple answers as to why we are in this mess in the first place and what you're going to do to get it right student veterans have completed their mission for all of us and it is time that the VA stand up and hold someone accountable for their failing actions or the lack of actions maybe a lack of accountability I now yield to my friend and ranking member and fellow Texan mr. o'roarke for any remarks you might have Thank You mr. chairman and I don't know that there's a whole bunch that I can add to your excellent opening comments but to say that I think typically the format for a hearing like this one having now served on this committee for six years is for those of us up here to express our outrage those of you at the witness table to tell us that you're working on the issue to express your dedication and commitment to serving veterans and for all of us to leave with some kind of vague understanding of what will be delivered what I would challenge all of us to do since we have the VA here the the undersecretary responsible the Oversight Committee and authorizing committee the contractor who's doing the is is to come up with specific deliverables so that every person in attendance and watching in the press who are writing about this leave with a very crystal clear understanding of when this will be fixed how it will be fixed and the mechanisms by which we can hold one another accountable I'll just add that in the reporting that I read in The Washington Post the spokesman for the VA mr. cash our blames the VA committee says that we have not funded the VA z' IT needs if that's the case I'm happy and hopefully can work with the chairman and the chairman of the full committee to introduce something on a emergency basis to get the funding necessary but my understanding is that we had authorized and appropriated what the VA had asked for so far there's more that we can do on our side in other words I'm all-in and I want to know exactly what that is right now I have weeks left in my term and my service on this committee I want to make the most of them and I think I speak for everyone in saying that we were all frustrated and want to see something happen let's use this meeting today to make that happen so to whatever degree you can strip down your testimony to to the win the how and the what and make sure that we have precise deliverables the more grateful I will be and the better chances that we'll be able to deliver something to the veterans who are waiting on us right now Thank You mr. chairman I thank the ranking member I now invite our first and only panel to the table but before I make those introductions I ask unanimous consent that our colleague mr. Kauffman and our colleague mr. Bergman be allowed to sit at the dice and ask questions during today's hearing without objection so ordered and also want to again extend a special thanks to our chairman for being here and being engaged in this as well with us today we welcome the Honorable dr. Paul Lawrence the undersecretary benefits dr. Lawrence is accompanied by General Robert Worley director of VA education service mr. Bill James deputy assistant secretary for development and operations at the VA office of information and Technology and mr. John J Jack Gavin associate deputy assistant secretary for information technology operations and services at the VA office have been from and technology we also welcome mr. richard crowe senior vice-president at Booz Allen Hamilton let's thanks again for being here folks if you could please stand I'd like to begin by swearing you guys in here or asking that you take an oath to solemnly swear under penalty of perjury that the testimony you're about to provide is the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth and if you would reply I do thank you please be seated let the record reflect that all witnesses answered in the affirmative dr. Lawrence thank you again for being here you were now recognized for five minutes good afternoon chairman Arrington ranking member or Warrick and members of the subcommittee thank you for inviting us here today to discuss the implementation of the forever GI bill the forever GI bill requires we develop new software which changes the way the monthly housing allowance is paid the development and the deployment of the new software has not gone as planned we did not meet the August 1st deadline and we are continuing to work on getting this right but let me explain this delay briefly historically we've used the school's facility code to identify the location our software linked the student to the main campus of the school and used the facility code to identify the amount to be paid the new legislation recognizes that a student could earn multiple credits at different locations in addition to locations such as branch campuses this could include internships externships and practicums none of which have facility codes zip codes of all locations where students earned credits were selected as the new way to identify these new locations in addition the possibility that students would be in multiple locations required the computation of where he or she earned most of the credits and pay the allowance based on that location the replacement of the facility codes with zip codes and the introduction of new computations for the allowance brought increased complexity in addition zip codes were coded into the word to be coded into multiple existing systems which made the situation far more complicated than originally estimated we are planning for the possibility that we may not have the new software ready for the spring semester should that happen we'll be prepared to process claims as we have been doing to ensure students will continue to receive their allowances and schools will receive their tuition payments we would continue to do that for as long as necessary before I conclude I'd like to make three brief additional points point one to date since the passage of the forever GI bill we've implemented 28 of the 30 provisions due by the end of fiscal 18 this fall 450,000 veterans went to school using the GI Bill the allegation of widespread veteran homelessness due to missed payments is false point two today we have seventy three thousand claims in the work queue not all involve payments some some our initial applications are change of programs others involve payments as veterans schools are both on average on any given day only 1% of these claims are greater than 60 days old we work closely and continuously to monitor and prioritize these claims carefully in point three any veteran experienced a hardship will receive expedited processing they can do this by calling 188 GI bill 1 again 888 GI bill 1 we know the forever GI bill is incredibly important to everyone veterans students Congress VSOs the VA and our VBA team the first priority I articulated when I came to VBA was that veterans should earn the benefits received the benefits they've earned in a manner that honors their service what they're experiencing now if the GI bill does not meet this high standard our VA team is committed to changing that Thank You chairman Arrington ranking member O'War this concludes my testimony I look forward to answering questions subcommittee half Thank You dr. Lawrence mr. crow you're now recognized for five minutes good afternoon chairman Arrington ranking member or orc and members of the subcommittee I am Richard crow a senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton and the client service officer for Booz Allen's health account I am pleased to be here with you today to discuss the continued implementation with a Harry W Cole Mary veterans Education Assistance Act of 2017 Clary act Booz Allen's commitment to serving our nation's veterans is strongly embedded in our culture Booz Allen was founded by a veteran and we have supported the Department of Veterans Affairs continuously since 1952 approximately one-third of Booz Allen over 24,000 employees or military connected that means there are either a veteran in the reserves the National Guard or military spouse and we invest heavily in helping our military-connected employees through career building benefits and formal military spousal support programs Booz Allen currently supports call Mary Act implementation of part of its contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs for the benefits integration platform in boos Allen's role as the software developer we are responsible for translating each of the VA s identified requirements into software code the VA takes the lead in mapping and determining the results for each user case based upon the VA s interpretation of the relevant statute regulations policy and business rules associated with the benefits programs themselves as software developers it's our job to ensure that the code produces the desired results Booz Allen appreciates this opportunity to discuss the decision not to go live with the qunari Act sections 107 and 501 updates by August 1st of this year simply stated the heavy volume of changes to the department's business rules shifted the way in which housing allowances are paid in a manner that introduced more variables the Kumari Act provisions required both new business rules and new policy determinations by the VA to meet the new law as a result we rewrote 60% of the code for the long term so long term solution system we were charged with modernizing from Booz Allen vantage point two of the primary factors driving the time frame for implementation of the revised rules have been the heavy and necessary reliance on other legacy IT systems outside of our control as well as the old age of the underlying IT systems since no single database contains all the information required to assess benefits eligibility we must obtain the necessary data from four other va legacy IT systems that are outside the Booz Allen contractual responsive we rely heavily on the VA and its contractors with responsibility over these legacy systems to navigate the data integration challenges posed by these systems dependencies from an age perspective many of these underlying systems are passed at or very near their intended dates for retirement as a result we have had the program an elaborate set of interfaces to draw from these different and dated systems these workarounds are time-consuming data intensive and have had required further system design coordinated testing and requirements validation in summary from Booz Allen sper spective the challenges we have faced involved endeavoring to build something new on top of something very old despite these challenges I'd be remiss not to highlight many of the key successes of the bid program we have helped the VA achieve greater efficiencies and implement best practices during this release process that will improve the overall efficiency of this process moving forward further in parallel to this effort we have been working with the VA to implement the modernization plans in other areas that continue to drive toward the VA s goals of a modern micro services based technology stack in short we've been helping the VA reduce the obstacles encountered here for the benefit of all future modernization efforts in the esteemed veteran population we collectively served I look forward to discussing these successes as well as these challenges in greater detail at the subcommittee for me there's nothing more professionally rewarding than helping the Veterans Affairs transform their technology as to make it easier for our nation's veterans to access the benefits they have earned and so richly deserved we look forward to continuing to provide support to the Department of Veterans Affairs as they enhance education benefits for veteran's service members families and survivors through the implementation of the Kumari Act thank you for the opportunity to testify before the subcommittee today I look forward to your questions Thank You mr. crow now you myself five minutes for questions dr. Lawrence or general Worley how many veterans student veterans have still not received payment at this point full payment housing stipend related payments mr. chairman at this at this point I would characterize the pending inventory or the work queue that we're talking about at 73,000 as fairly normal and manageable work queue so there shouldn't be anybody at this point you know with late payments per se we're continuing to work those that we've heard or have hardships and addressing those immediately but we're at a relatively normal inventory today so 73,000 student veterans have not received payment yet no sir okay the 73,000 number as dr. Lawrence articulated represents claims that could be one day old or greater than 60 days old so it's the whole range of our work you that is pending for our claims examiner's to work on of those you know most of them are less than 30 days old and so that's that's the work queue that people need to work on and some of those don't involve payments they're just changes to a program or their original claims that don't involve a payment and then others do involve payments to schools or veterans dr. Lawrence I heard the gentleman from Booz Allen mentioned legacy systems I heard you talk about codes and zip codes and other codes and do you think the fact that there are antiquated systems in place may be unnecessary may be duplicative but certainly older systems is that if is that part of the problem here sure I think the problem is couple fault I tried to explain in my opening statement sort of the new business problem that was introduced with the housing allowance in addition as as mr. crow pointed out we're using legacy systems and it's not plug-and-play it's very complicated part of the reason mr. James is here from OIE to help explain this and maybe you can jump in in sure chairman I'm putting up a chart here and that's basically the education engine if you will and education IT engine and you can see all the different parts and pieces and boxes on there the yellow box at the bottom in the middle there that's the LTS box and that's the one that rich Crowe here was talking about where most of the Booz Allen work in fact all of it has been focused on but the surrounding boxes on that chart on that engine those are all the legacy the old legacy components some of them are are 50 years old for example the B Deanna's example of 50 years old code and let me just ask you in answer because I'm going to run out of time before you get through that chart I'll guarantee you but the legacy issues the boxes around there that aren't plugging and playing with the fixes that mr. Cronin is outfitter are trying to implement to get this provision implement and why are they legacy issues why are those boxes not up-to-date I know that I've been on this committee now two years my first full term and we have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on IT solutions why are those still problematic that's a lot of boxes around that yellow box right yes chairman that system is complex that engine is old and they the why is it though I guess my question is if you if we've given the resources to the VA to implement IT solutions that work so that we can get these good reform bills these bipartisan reform fixes and and solutions to help our veterans but they get stalled out on account what do you need if it's not the hundreds of millions of dollars that we've that we've that the tax payers have so generously given you to serve the veterans what else do you need yes I understand the question chairman we had a broad modernization effort in place called the benefits integration platform or BIP which was to modernize the whole engine all the pieces on that engine when that was prior to passing of Coma react when koma react passed what effectively happened was if you take that LTS as the carburetor comb reacts that hay build a fuel injector with 450,000 parts that plugs into that engine the rest of the engine hasn't been changed but the LTS part is modernization so we shifted from broad modernization to focus on comb react because we had a deadline to achieve so without all that understood and the challenges that were recognized I'm sure early before we even ventured to implement this section this provision of the new GI Bill dr. Lawrence and general Worley why give us a timeline that said we'd be ready for the fall or we'd be ready in another 30 days why not say we may never we may it may be a year because of the legacy issues y'all should know when you're trying to pass this this legislation that it may be a year before the veteran ever sees a efficient implementation of this and then when you answer after you answer that I'm going to then defer to my ranking member for five minutes and comments and questions he might have that was unfortunate and you are correct that was a mistake to give you a date with we did not understand the certainty around it which is why now we are not giving you a date to so address ranking members concerns you will not leave this hearing with the date because as we told you in mid-september we were in the testing part of this work and when we would not give a date until we had certainty in part based on our learnings from this experience as well as our understanding that the problem had grown more complex I deferred now to mr. O'Rourke for five minutes dr. Lorenz not not very encouraging I think in your testimony you've failed to account for the scope of the problem minimized the problem and try to remind us that you know VBA is doing great work in many cases which I don't think anyone here would contest but there's the very real problem that veterans who have earned this benefit are not receiving the payments that they need to complete their education I'd love to have some specifics and I will challenge you to give us a deadline just because you all missed the last deadline even though we met with you two weeks before that deadline where I think you could have shown a little bit more candor doesn't mean that you don't get to have a deadline going forward that's a recipe for disaster if I've ever heard one how many how many veterans have outstanding payments greater than 30 days and we have a 16th ranking member okay I have a greater than 60 day number for today it's it's a thousand claims that are pending over 60 days as you can understand each day it's a different number because some become over 6 days some get worked many get worked we've worked many thousands of claims in that ballpark we focused on the older claims especially over the last two months to make sure we get those down and those numbers have come down over time why why do you not have over 30 days why can't you give me that number if you give him a minute I might have it okay paper seems like a question we would anticipate we're trying to you know again it's minimized by saying there are a lot of them who are only a day old two days old in the system I think we all get that what we want to know is what the problem is what the University of that problem is and how you're going to fix it so I'd love to know how we're going to help those who are waiting more than 60 days which is a thousand you said I'd love to know the number for greater than 30 days how we're going to help them how soon we're going to help them what your deadline is to help them and then how we can be assured that those who are under 30 days will not be over 30 days going forward what's the plan to do that it looks like as of today we have a little over 10,000 that are between the 31 and 60-day mark and the plan going forward is to continue our overtime work continue to have the improved processing provided by 200 additional processors we're focusing as I said on the old work first we're handling hardships as they come in and that's the ongoing effort that we've gone through since since October or since the peak of this fall which was two hundred and seven thousand claims on September 14th we've reduced the inventory by 64% so we've brought it down content since that time we're in we're a normal processing range now and our timeliness is very close to our targets which is 28 days for original claims and 14 days for supplemental claims generally in the backup that I received we show a 27% increase in pending end products as compared to the previous year on this state you said it was it was a comparable caseload is that 27% increase correct it is correct mr. O'Rourke and I would just characterize that by saying a normal in the past five six years actually since since automation was put into place with long term solution in September of 2012 our peak periods and in the fall and in the spring are manageable Peaks they're somewhere between 100 and hundred fifty thousand is where we get to the peak yes there's a few days additional and our timeliness but people don't miss payments for the most part so when I say we're manageable and today even though it's 27 percent higher than last year again we're in the 73 thousand range right now of our work queue and that's something that we can maintain our timeliness with the workforce we have generally do you have an idea of how many students have not been able to enroll in classes because they have not received tuition payments I'm assuming when you mentioned hardship cases that would fall into that category or urgent cases most of the urgent cases we've received seem to be issues related to housing or potential eviction we've received very few what I would call confirmed cases of anyone actually being evicted and very few actually I don't know of any cases where someone that has come to my attention or somewhat has not been able to enroll in school we went out to the schools of the communication asking them to understand that they would be paid and to not take you know not to penalize the veterans going to their schools thank you I thank the ranking member and now recognize our chairman dr. Phil Roe for five minutes I will deal your hobbies go on the chairman now yields five minutes to mr. piller raucous thank you thank you mr. chairman Thank You mr. chairman appreciate very much dr. Lawrence these problems have been ongoing since the beginning of the semester we're almost at the end of the fall semester and most students and schools are already playing for spring semester it's my understand – VA we'll have to go back rework and verify hundreds of thousands of claims once the LTS modifications are complete what steps is the VA taking to ensure that the reworking of these claims will not have a lasting impact on spring semester claims you have it exactly right sir when the nuke software works we'll have to go back and recompute everybody who was in fall and will have to do the reconciliation you spoke about in our modeling what we've sought to do is figure out how we will balance that with the spring semester so we don't have the problems we ran into that mr. Worley just described so our anticipation is that when it goes live we will actually sit down and do the computations you're describing to figure out how it does not affect on the spring semester that's correct the world would be as far as the modifications excuse me on January 1st I'm sorry I mean as far as the modifications where do you think we where do you expect to be let's say on January 1st the beginning of next semester right now given where we are in the testing process and our inability to understand exactly when the testing will be complete I'm estimating right now which will be subject to our continued through testing that we'll be processing manually and we will not have done those reconciliations yet so that'll be your backup plan probably the plan will execute pending the defending the completion of the software ok there's so much uncertainty among our students our heroes are veterans given the delays have already occurred do you expect the same type of delays we saw earlier this year and as a follow-up I have go ahead do you expect the timeout delays that we saw this year no I think they're on you know no I do not expect those delays in the spring in this fall what happened was we waited for the technology which did not as you've been kind enough to point out we then allowed the schools to enroll receiving all the work that we would have happened through the lates for late summer and early fall at one time this caused the backlog that led to the delays everybody's described presently we're not planning to wait if we do not have the software in place soon we'll open the enrollment for the spring semester and it will happen just like mr. Rowley described for a normal cadence and we'll manage it like we've always done and it will be a regular process the communications will be again a regular and consistent explaining this to everybody okay I have a bill HR 48 30 the SIP rep act are they passed the house and what it does is takes the pressure off the veterans and make sure that these universities whether they're vocational universities community colleges do not put pressure on the veterans because I understand that they happen to a certain extent putting pressure on them to get loans to pay off and we're talking about you know I know we're talking about housing allowance as well but the tuitions and and I recommend that the Senate move on that quickly because I don't want to put pressure on that they've got enough problems transitioning into the private sector and again we've got to do everything for our veterans so I don't know what your opinion is on that particular bill but you're welcome to give it if you like I understand we support it we support anything that helps veterans very good thank you I yield back mr. chairman thank you mr. Bilirakis chairman now yield 5 minutes to mr. Takano Thank You mr. chairman before this hearing I had a chance to review the transcript of the last year and we had on this issue in July where chairman Arrington repeatedly asked VA if it had everything it needed to be ready in time and the answer was that despite the heavy lift VA was prepared for any glitches obviously that was not the case it was a huge bipartisan effort to make these changes to better serve veterans and to make sure that we gave VA everything it asked for so it is frustrating to be here and Chairman Arrington said resources were offered and have been given in copious amounts so it's frustrating to be here looking at this massive failure after everything that this committee and Congress did so dr. Lawrence it seems to me that ultimately all of these problems stem from an IT failure whether it's aging infrastructure bandwidth issues in adequate user scenarios that you provided to Booz Allen it all stems back to IT and we're in the mess you're because of because the IT doesn't work is that a fair characterization a couple comments sir it's it's frustrating for all of us not just you on that side of the table it's we know it's frustrating for veterans I think everybody's working very hard IT is no doubt part of what we do this very complicated thing that we're undertaking the analogy of the carburetor IT plays a large component but it's a group effort sir wait a minute what parts IT what parts the group the group effort is obviously we have to translate the requirements into things for the coders to do so we need to make sure those are right we've got to run the tests carefully we've got to review the tests make sure we understand the different scenarios okay we got to get the IT right if I might just interrupt so it's not it's not antiquated machinery it's not it's all part of it sir that's all part of it so your IT so there's a management component there was a project management issues that's currently the team all right but ultimately it's IT it's all sort of in the realm of IT whether it's the personnel related to IT or the machines that are out of date or the misguidance that was given to your consult your contractor so given that it's all in the IT space you're here from educational services right I'm the undersecretary benefits era response that's benefits it's okay Ben asserts all right well my question is why isn't the why isn't the head of va IT here why isn't he here to explain or take accountability or response before this failure mr. sand the ball I worked very closely mr. sander ball he suggested mr. James and and Jack Shaw because of their relationship with the software and the infrastructure which we thought would be the bulk of what we would talk about today still he's the guy that's where the buck stops I don't understand why he's not here yeah I don't expect you have an answer but I just want to point out mr. chairman that I am befuddled as to why an IT debacle you send the project managers but you don't send the person for whom the major responsibilities whose shoulders are lies all right during a modernization board meeting last Friday the education services team was asked if there was anything that could have been done differently to have prevented this from happening and the answer was no that answer implies that VA does not believe that they made any mistakes or did anything wrong now I know I don't know how VA could represent that and in that meeting when so many student veterans have been harmed so severely by these by these failures so I'd like to ask you today if you were to start this process again what would you have done differently beyond not telling the committee that you could have gotten this done by a certain deadline um a couple things sir at the modernization board I remember that was said it was repeated to me I was not at the meeting I was actually working on this problem in front of us now I wish what what had said is we haven't had time yet to digest the full range of experience but but it was your team I understand and I what I wish they had said where dad had died we've been so focused on completing the problem at hand we haven't had time to digest the whole rate and answer that question adequately switch up my question because I don't want it like I mean we asked I mean obviously mistakes were made and people made mistakes but going forward in order to get I know you want to give us a timeline but I think I want to challenge you as mr. as the ranking member has challenged you to come up with the timeline what do we need to do what do you need from us anything more you need from us I mean it's embarrassing you know I think it's embarrassing that for you to baby I'll ask after all that we've given you but what do we need to do how do we what we need to support you in making this right I would just say congressman that in terms of what to do differently as dr. Lawrence described the reason we had the high peak numbers for the fall was that planning on a successful IT deployment in July we told schools to hold their enrollments where there were multiple campuses involved so so as to avoid extra work for both the schools and the VA when we released there either the ability for them and told them go ahead and send them in in July we got six months of work in about two months so one thing we're going to do is not do that again for the spring semester to make sure that we have the normal flow of receipts through the spring and we can address them and if if I could take one one more minute to in it illustrate the complexity of Section 501 107 of the kumari Act under Section 501 you could have three students sitting in a classroom all di bill students going the same class at the same time getting three different housing allowances just as it relates to Section three 501 because of when they started to use their benefits add on top of that if the if the three of them were taking a majority of their classes in different locations yet again they would have a different housing allowance these are some of the kinds of scenarios that make this a very complex problem to solve mr. chairman I apologize for going over I yield back Thank You mr. Takano I now yield five minutes to the gentleman from Indiana mr. banks Thank You mr. chairman dr. Lorenson general Worley I appreciate you attending this hearing and taking responsibility for these problems which seemed to hinge on legacy system integration issues without a doubt everyone's main concern is the student veterans receive the benefits they have earned and that their lives are not disrupted but I'm also concerned with why the system glitches keep happening many of EA's IT systems are decades-old disjointed and written and outdated software languages BTN LTS and the related educational and Housing Benefit systems are more the rule than the exception mr. James and mr. Galvan I have not had the opportunity to meet you yet but I know it will not surprise you that this is very similar to the issues that we are examining with the technology modernization subcommittee mr. crow as you know your company is the lead support contractor to VA in the EHR modernization program I am concerned that VA does not seem to have the capacity or maybe the strategy in place to handle these modernisations you seem to dive in without a solid understanding of all the dependencies and touch points in these legacy systems so you wind up inventing and reinventing the plan throughout the project every single time as if no one looks under the hood of these systems for years and years until suddenly you are in there rewiring them like we are today we have to build up the capacity and change the strategy where this will happen again and again and again I think the IT system for the caregiver expansion is probably next so to get to my question dr. Lawrence V A's contract with Booz Allen originally required that quote each build shall be three months or less that means delivering a completed functional piece of software every three months maybe not the entire software package but a piece that can be used but in April of this year VA and Booz Allen agreed to change that contract language by adding quote unless otherwise agreed upon by the government and the contractor why'd you do that I'm gonna defer to the bill has you closer to the IT contract congressman I don't have the details on the why that happened I'd like to take that for record to understand to give you a perfect answer okay so so answer I expected so when the original deadline or expectation when the system modification implement section 107 when was the original deadline or expectation of when when the system modifications to implement section 107 though they would be completed what was your original original plan was July 16th to deploy the software and as we testified at in July we at that time we had realized our July 2000 Julie 2018 yes sir so what did the VA already know in April that motivated you to undo the requirements the software be delivered in three months Congress I don't have an answer for that okay that's what I expected too so the language that quoted clearly does pertain to the work that we are discussing today it comes from line-item 4001 in your contract which you have so far funded as 69 million dollars you want to comment on that the funded at the tune of 69 million for that line I'm is that your suggestion because that your understanding as well I don't know about the budget or the funding for it but I believe we've paid out six hundred and forty seven thousand to date on that line on them okay well we'll dig into that even more so mr. Chairman I think this might be a what did they know and when did they know it type a question and I've got more questions for round two but with that I'll yield back Thank You mr. banks we now yield 5 minutes to mr. Correa I think mr. Chairman I want to thank you for holding this most important hearing and some listening to all of this history I'm asking myself and the committee are we destined to live with these IT failures irrespective of how much money taxpayer dollars we invest trying to take care of our men and women who are coming back after serving our country gentlemen not this last weekend I was at a opening of a Vet Center in my district Chapman University young man coming back from fighting for our country ready to get their education and I'll tell you walking in this scenario it's kind of embarrassing and it's shameful to me and I think to us you talk about a teamwork you talk about your schematics teamwork I hope were part of that team when it comes to executing so give us a July 16th deadline to come up with some solutions I understand this is IT it's very complex as you said but I guess if we're part of a team why did it take the committee staff you know visit by the committee staff to Oklahoma to figure out that something was going on someone was not going right why didn't that information why was that not conveyed to this committee that things were not on schedule the since I arrived in May part of what I've been doing is working closely with oin T's what are the technology challenges we've faced we identified that latency and the connectivity to our offices was a problem working with OIT we first started by dealing with the way we communicate call it the bandwidth the pipes to the offices we expanded those when that didn't work we notice the software still locked up as your staff discovered we were in the process of examining why the soft look conflict 'add when your team went to visit what they saw is what we knew what was going on and what we were working on it would be inaccurate to say their visit motivated us to deal with it because we were already dealing with it so I mean but their visit was the way this committee was made a praise or made informed of the fact that things are not going well I'm not saying you you're hiding it from us but you didn't tell us things we're not going right sure I think in our regular conversations with you we focused on the software development and I think we were meeting almost weekly to explain to your team while we were doing I believe the agenda was an hour long and it focused on the software development that that was not included in the the agenda and it was an oversight if we don't include in the agenda you see that something's wrong should you bring it up to our attention those are standard challenges we were dealing with I would not be bringing those to you because we were dealing with those so you're part of the team we would escalate accordingly and I thought this you have a situation where students may have challenges and in your words you think it's false that any other students having numerous issues no sir your team saw struggling to process well what they admitted it was pointed out five minute task was taking 45 minutes students is weren't suffering we were processing through overtime to your knowledge they're not suffering no I said that people have suffered because of the backlog that mr. Worley described but what your team saw was 5-minute tasks taking 45 minutes that was our internal issue we were working should our teams also go to Buffalo and st. Louis to see if there were any issues and there are the same issues there that we have addressed the same way first by working on the bandwidth then by D conflicting the software if we're going to work as a team and yet we don't have this information how can we be a better team I'm perplexed above the lack of information we regularly send to your staff weekly reports that I would consider management of reports that you're welcome to delve into and on personally I'm happy to come briefed you on what you're seeing you're seeing what our leaders are seeing in terms of our operational performance so I'll be happy to come sit down and talk you through I would love to have you come talk to the committee and essentially tell us those issues which you believe are coming forth what are the challenges that are not being met so to speak certain were the problems I'm happy they're coming up with its chairman I yield Thank You mr. Correia now recognized mr. maths for five minutes Thank You chairman let's move in the other direction of people not being paid how many people do you anticipate are going to have disruptions in their lives as a result of being overpaid because of miscalculation thank you for the opportunity to address that because of the lack of our IT implementation so we are paying in correct housing to to our beneficiaries depending on when they start at school some of those beneficiaries are receiving about sixty nine dollars more than they should be getting because we applied the new DoD rate to them others who are existing students already are are not receiving about a 1% little less than 1% increase that was implemented on with the DoD rates and this should have been implemented August 1st so we don't have the breakout of the exact numbers sir on which of those are you know which is which but as we have said we will not go back and try to recover the overpayments once the IT fix is in and where we have underpaid our beneficiaries we will make them whole at the time the IT fix goes so you you expressed before that this is difficult in the classroom there can be a number of different scenarios somebody could be a distant student from this place but showing up for a one or two time class at some other place or they could live in one place but be attending courses in another location is there any parameters in which you're intending to clawback dollars from veteran students under any part of this that has gone on any of those situations of those numerous complex situations that you said can exist in any given classroom are there any situations that you intend to be clubbed to clawback dollars we will not claw back anything that is related to our lack of implementing sections 107 and 501 sir have you written any letters to students alerting them to the fact that they may be being overpaid as we speak and that you do not intend to clawback dollars from them through September in October we sent nearly an email a week to 35,000 schools and over 300,000 students telling them about the payment delays and letting them know that we would not again not not establish debts against them let's move in a slightly different direction you said already you don't intend to to indicate the completion date that it's very complex again can you tell us a little bit about the testing that's going on right now how much of a priority is this testing how many people do you have working on this issue we've turned over release candidate 27 on November 7th user acceptance testing is being conducted by the VA as as far as the staffing level of user accepting testing that's a VA process so I'd have mr. Lawrence how many people are working on testing I think in total including the contractors and the VA we're about a hundred people involved right now today you know testing coding fixing working on all that software all day so that's their sole function they're working on this all day yes sir we're sir we're also working through the weekend on this through the weekends yes as well is there a school that you're currently testing somewhere that's that has live testing going on where this is this can be looked at it to say it's working or not working well the way we're doing it sir is subject matter experts from the VA can take the software through its paces and they're really pushing it through real-world scenarios I have software developers where are these real-world scenarios dr. Lawrence they're written in user acceptance testing their use cases they model the behavior students would be doing is Rob pointed out the different variations they would have and we use them to test the software to make sure the results are as we would expect them to do and when they don't go as we expect them to do that's the testing part we go back and talk about why that is those schools being live tested right now the schools these are user Keys are user um these are use cases that we've developed so they're tested in our tested environment they're based on the experience students would have so there could still be a problem once you actually put this into the the live environment of various different schools around the country depending on what their IT infrastructure might exist how their IT infrastructure when what you're describing happens it's such a small percentage of the total Weibull to deal with that thank you have one more question mr. Crowe is there a an additional bill coming from Booz Allen Hamilton or do you plan on an additional bill coming from Booz Allen Hamilton for all of this additional testing and the extra man hours and the extra people that you have to get to work on these issues so today we for our Section 501 and 107 we have not invoiced the VA and we continue to work against our funding line and we're committed committed to getting this getting this deployed to serve the veteran we've grant me one follow-on question here do you anticipate sending a dish in additional bill for the functionality that was delivered now no if there's additional functionality that's requested obviously we would have to look at it then I yield back chairman Thank You mr. masse I now recognize the chairman row for five minutes thank you but one of the things that the VA has gotten rise they named this long term solution right that's appropriate is it gonna take a long time to get this solution it looks like let me let me put this in real terms young soldier with the two-year old probably not three figures in a bank account probably not three figures not four but probably not three well the 1974 used dodge Colt with a straight stick shift looking for the GI Bill to help him when he went back to school that was me and I got the money on time without all the computers well the nonsense I got a check every month from the VA not a single hiccup 1975 and today with all this technology and millions and millions and millions of dollars spent amazon has by June of this year a mannequin by August of this year I know because their company in my district makes them it's another billion articles to people and gotten I think probably most of it exactly right and that's a frustration I have that we've spent all this money and time and we can't get a paycheck out to somebody and I know mr. krei I brought up is something that I want to follow along how many claims have we actually gotten right as of right now when the school is in session we've done hundreds of final you guys have done hundreds of thousands of them how many have gotten been done right correctly how much so many schools got the right number how many veterans got there how many students got the right check chairman rove literally thousands upon thousands of our beneficiaries have received payments on time and correct and correct well no not for the housing because the new rates are not in the system but otherwise you know like i said some are getting paid over and over a little bit some are a little nuts then let's go to that just this because of this IT failure this is not only I mean the forever GI Bill is a tremendous bill I think both sides of the aisle take great pride in that and the country can take great pride in it it was transformational after World War two and I know to this day I appreciate the $300 a month that I got back in 1975 and 1976 I'm appreciative of that to this day it helped me and my family a lot but a lot of these people are out there like I had with absolutely no money sweating the end of the month and sweat and can I keep my apartment am I gonna have enough to feed my kids and so forth and we're how much money have we spent instead of getting those benefits to students in overtime and in IT and that's what I want to know is how much money have we spent just implementing this because the system didn't work and I want to follow that up mr. crow with this question to you is what is your assessment of the LTS modifications and do you believe that you have delivered the product that you were required to produce thank you sir we delivered on July 27th we delivered released candidate 18 which satisfied the requirements at the time we were asked to deliver and at that time we believed it to be based on our understanding of the software defect free when it the VA was testing user acceptance testing began in June they're continuing to do testing we were marching towards in August first delivery date and what you know subsequent testing identified new issues with the software largely around variations of these user cases is you know I think mr. Massey even mentioned all these different permeation permutations of housing subsequent to that I think very prudently the VA took a pause to reassess requirements and see if there was additional functionality which yielded 83 new user cases which we built – we delivered that software on November 7th and released candidate numbers release candidate 27 that has been under testing since November 7th as of 253 today there is no critical defects with that software okay and mr. James if mr. Kroll believes its products ready you've been giving the user acceptance testing now for just a week or two why is the system not ready I know the other bugs in there that VA or Booz Allen need to fix Thank You chairman so that module may be ready from the you know the perspective of meeting its specifications but what happens now is that the surrounding modules that we saw on that diagram they now have to be changed to get the bugs out that you know are reflective of the new carburetor we just installed so there are our issues in one of those systems called VA once and there are issues and Weems that were discovered and user testing at the end of October so now those surrounding systems have to be fixed and once you fix those you're gonna have to regression test the module that R it's just talked about so yes we have no we have no earthly idea when this is gonna be ready that this and so I guess the thing to take away I want for students out there watching they're in school today what can they expect mid-january when they go back to class after the Christmas break when they go to scan Nate can we sit here with a straight face and tell these students that your school's gonna get paid and you're gonna get your check in a timely fashion can we say that to them now today the answer that question is yes as mr. Worley just point out what you're not getting as long as the software is not done is the new housing allowance per the new GI Bill that's what's difference you're getting the old payment but you are getting a payment you are able to go to school and your school will be paid at the end of day now yield back I'm sorry for going over at the end the day I wanna know how much this overtime and how much this payment that we're not going to claw back has cost the taxpayers mm-hmm we will follow up on that Thank You mr. chairman and we now recognize mr. Coffman for five minutes thank miss Sherman if if I can go back dr. Lawrence to what you just mentioned and in the old payment versus a new payment the old payment versus the location of the the institution the school versus the new payment which is far more complicated could be multiple institutions each with varying amounts but but what you said was that they're receiving payment on the old system but my concern is not the the institution and not to school but it's the the veteran on the housing side in particular usually I know property management firms having been in the business giving about a five day grace period at the being of the month of the payment of rent and so and these are renters they're not but I went to school on the on the GI Bill not homeowners and so tell me about but let's drill down on the housing component of this actually that the living component of this because it's more than just housing to the veteran and are they so when you talk about the old payment versus the new payment are they receiving the old payment though on a timely basis yes that's what yes that's what we've been describing and nost mr. Worley to jump in here this is where I talked about the new rates are on average 1% higher so you're getting the old rates okay using the old computation in addition we've been very concerned about exactly the situation you're describing which is why we identified expedited route to get payments we've worked with VSOs your staff to identify anybody who would say I'm you know I'm in a hardship situation found about a thousand of those people and I will tell you every time we've looked where someone said there's widespread activity where people we found that not to be true so we are very concerned about this and are trying to get people paid exactly for that reason but we are not finding that systematically happening okay but certainly admit that the I've not received the the the volume of complaints in my office but but we certainly have read press stories about individuals not receiving anything on the housing side why don't you comment on that we've looked at those stories sir and it's you know it's hard to speak more broadly but I wouldn't call specifically we've gone and find those they are generally not true we've tried to find as mr. Roy said we have no confirmed cases of somebody being evicted they've either not told us but we found people there's a story today in the wall in The Washington Post that cites theory veterans we know the story of those three veterans I cannot share them with you because it's personal information but I'm more than happy to do so in private and that story misrepresents the facts okay so the it's it's the Delta between the old system in the new system that they're that they're not getting on a timely basis that's correct okay so but one thing in going back that I have a concern about and hopefully we'll get this corrected going forward how did this happen where we come up with legislation and we're relying upon the expertise of the Department of Veterans Affairs to tell us whether or not the the the implementation date the effective date of the legislation is realistic or not and so the the Congress of the United States was not given accurate information as to the implementation how did that happen I mean we rely on you to opine in in the in hearings like this I mean you are given the VA Department of Veterans Affairs has always given an opportunity to comment on every single bill before this committee and and your support you the whether you support it whether you don't support it whether it's realistic on the implementation side or not realistic on the implementation side and we were not given adequate information but could you comment on that if I could take that one no sir you're exactly right we've as you know first of all the forever GI bill that the set of provisions was put together you know in in record time and passed into law and signed into law in record time when we commented on those provisions in support of the legislation then we tell you know we tell you all that which provisions require significant IT work and so I would suggest to you that we typically say we need at least a year or about a year to do IT work we don't usually project beyond that because at the time we review these provisions we're not sure exactly of the complete requirements that might go with it so I would just what do you mean you're not sure about the complete requirements how would you how can you say that well I would say that until you delve into the code as we've described you may not appreciate especially when it comes to the housing calculation which is fundamental in the in the depth of the code a long-term solution how many scenarios you could have once the provisions are passed sir we spend a lot of time with our general counsel and with your staffs making sure we understand the intent of Congress and the various interpretations that we might have to make as we implement this bill we did this with every provision of the Kumari Act as we got ready to implement it so so there is new discovery sometimes between the time we have commented and supported legislation and give you views and costs to the time it actually gets implemented I think there's just a disconnect here mr. crow I mean as a professional an IT professional soon you're couldn't you assess the complexity of this and how long it would take for its implementation thank you for the question we're software developers and we rely on the VA for subject matter expertise in defining what the what the user requirements are we defer to them for defining the policy the rules the statutes and defining what the user cases are and so we we lean on them this is one team right we worked very closely with them in requirements elaboration starting in January through April defining eleven of the twenty seven cases we continue to work on we continue to refine cases in additional 16 cases between April indeed all the way up to July 12th with user cases of scenarios but to your request question mr. Kaufmann when we got you know I guess when user testing occurred there are many many I guess the the user acceptance testing realized that there were many many many more scenarios that they hadn't accounted for and so you know that's that's you know I would not be able to look into the future we rely on subject matter expertise from the VA mr. chairman if I can close with this you know this administration the Trump administration promise to clean up the culture of bureaucratic incompetence inside the VA and I and based on this testimony today and and and other hearings we've had I don't think they've made a look at difference I yield back Thank You mr. Kaufman I agree with you wholeheartedly I associate myself with that comment and hope to elaborate on it before this hearings over the chairman now recognizes Neal's five minutes to mr. Bergman general Bergman Thank You mr. chairman it's been interesting to watch the game of whack-a-mole continue on and we're all involved because as the committee were trying to take the mallet of fiscal you know capability and give it to the VA as the different moles you know lack of moles pop up we watch you deal with the different criteria the different software development challenges my concern if I can articulate it is that if we don't to the 80 plus percent level agree on what the parameters are and the problems we're trying to knowing that technology is going to change and what we have is cutting-edge technology today tomorrow is going to be legacy which we're going to spend more money funding when the tech rate of technology changes to the point where now do we have to spend more money keeping up with the rate of technological change that's one of the challenges any business has when you look at defense especially when you're looking at things from weapons systems all of that rate of technology change is always going to play a factor what we're asking you I believe is give us that 80% level of change you're only gonna live in so many zip codes you're really only going to take so many courses you're only gonna do this give us that 80% level and have the parameters set so that when you get it right to the 80% level then the other 20% that is going to occur naturally we minimize the continual cash outlay we minimize the pain to the veterans that can occur just through a glitch and one of the challenges we have is that when you try to pay your credit card personally if you can't do it online what do you got to do probably got to write a check right because you want to get it paid so you don't have to pay the extra you you know fee for a late payment somehow the VA has to have something in place to have that ability to help that veteran get that payment in a timely matter when the eventual glitch comes again you're talking a small percentage but we have to have that backup capability it should not be our go to so would anybody at the table care to basically respond in my comment are we going to be able to get the 80% level correct so we're not chasing legacy new technology legacy new technology and continuing to have have mr. crow and his software developers keep after that as congressman I think you'd articulated the modern way of doing software which is to find success up front and then you know work at that in bite-sized pieces you know build a little test a little deploy a little that's what we need to get to to get out of this vicious cycle of maintenance and legacy software that we're in today so there's a whole modernization effort that needs to update all those boxes on that chart to get to that level of modern you know software development we're doing it today on this LTS piece we need to do it with the other pieces on that chart so thank you mr. chairman are you back Thank You general Bergman I'm gonna go for another round of questions for the members that want to stay I'm going to yield myself five more minutes and ask general Worley I must say I've been impressed with you since I've taken this job and and I appreciate your professionalism I have a sense of your sincere commitment to the veterans do you have control over the IT system software design development sort of overall IT services is that in your bailiwick no sir not not the not the development for example with this provision in its implementation is is that your job my mr. chairman my job in this development and any kind of development is to define the user requirements okay and provide those have you done that yes sir thank you that Lear we did that back in know who you think they were clear the user requirements did they receive those would you feel like there been we believe they were complete and okay so did the breakdowns on the IT side I mean you're you're being you're a customer of your CIO and your IT operation within the VA is that that a fair way to describe it that's correct are you happy with the service are you ecstatic are you average are you so so are you just really fed up and really exasperated and almost depressed that you're having to come to this hearing yet again over this issue well as dr. Lawrence pointed out we're all frustrated that we don't have the solution in place and here's what's frustrating general if I may what's frustrating is we feel powerless up here because we've given you money we've given you the authority we have asked repeatedly for anything else if there are barriers that we're unaware of to remove so I can't fire the see I don't even know who he is I've never seen him so you know mark Greg you know point I I don't know who he is I don't think we have one I think you have an acting I think you've had an acting for a while that there's also a sort of a repeated response we don't have one this person's been acting and they've only been in the job for there's the continuity and leadership is a real problem at the VA I think we would all acknowledge that but we feel powerless to do anything I can't fire anybody I can ask you who's responsible and have they been and should they be the veterans I think feel powerless because there's not a local VA they can go to if you're not serving them they can't go to the next corner to the VA that provides the same benefit they're trapped they're trapped in a monopoly in this bureaucracy and they can't get out of it and so that's why we're all frustrated but who is ultimately responsible for this dysfunction across the board the legacy yada-yada-yada that we heard ultimately who's responsible for that is it general Worley mr. undersecretary let me let me describe accountability I'm the Undersecretary of venemous I'm responsible for making sure veterans receive checks under the GI bill mr. Worley works with me with that on the technology the way the structure said we work closely with oh I and T we work collaboratively in that sense okay they're responsible for the contract with Booz Allen Hamilton we have to work together on this it's just the way this is somebody's ultimately got to be accountable because if all y'all are accountable nobody is accountable I mean I know that you have to define the need you have to set the expectation you have to put the user requirements and articulate them I'm assuming that's been done this is an IT issue and it and and and again I it is it feels like an exercise in futility just about every program and every good intention of this committee where we're trying to solve a problem and serve our veterans and then it's just more IT rigmarole and legacy this that the other and brokenness and dysfunction I feel like there's a leadership issue I feel like there's a lack of strategic management I don't think there's a real plan for the IT architecture of this agency I just think it's fundamentally broken do you agree with that well let me comment you say yes or no do you agree with that I don't have context that you have to respond to the broad question you have you matter context you work they're looking they're not serving you and your here is certain committee do you believe that it's broken fundamentally and dysfunctional because Booz Allen I have more confidence in his expertise and he says it uses the word legacy that's a nice way of saying it's old and it's antiquated and it doesn't work well and I'm doing the best I can with this this old antiquated system that we've spent hundreds of millions of dollars in expecting that you would change it I would not describe the process we are going through on this project only okay Larry we are mr. Crowe you've seen a lot of organizations public and private no doubt how bad scale of one to ten ten being the worst relative to others that you've worked with and I understand you do a lot of business probably billions of dollars with the VA from what I'm told so I know it's gonna be tough to muster the courage here to just say it like it is but you've seen this the boxes in the dysfunction we just put it on the screen nobody up here knows what that means except that those boxes aren't working together how bad is it one to ten relative to your other customers that's a good question I would say that the legacy IT systems in the video va are very complex it's the second largest agency in the United States behind the Department of Defense and not surprisingly it has a very complex system the other thing I would point out as many of these systems so are you telling me that just it's the nature of the VA the complexity of the VA itself is the disaster of the legacy systems that you described or is it the fact that there's not a real IT architecture plan and effective implementation of that architecture and plan well I can't speak to the entire VA because I'm not familiar with every IT system in the VA but you're familiar with a lot of it because y'all do a lot of work for the for the VA correct we do and my colleague told me it was billions of dollars well it's you think it's over a billion no well I mean I well I can get back to you on that but I I was told it was two billion roughly two to three that's a lot of work man I hope you know that customer well I've got I've gone over my time way over my time I still have questions but I don't even know if we have time and I want to respect everybody's time here but I still have questions so I'm hoping that one of my colleagues will continue with this mr. ranking member okay five minutes thank you it's plus or muscle mentals – muscle menace so just in my opening comments I was hoping to have some clarity in where we are and and how we fix some of the outstanding issues we have 11,000 claims over 30 days a thousand of those are over 60 days generally do we have an estimate for number of claims over 90 days as you are finding that I'm gonna just confirm what seems to be inferred which is that this system is not going to be ready for the spring semester you have an out-and-out said it but you've said it if I'm incorrect in stating that correct me general Worley has said though the system will not be ready we will be able to avoid delays because we've already concluded that the system will not be ready and were geared up to receive those claims as though the system were not ready so so we're not going to have those additional delays my understanding it – the question asked by Chairman Roe is that we are four million dollars in in additional overtime to mr. banks line of questioning is that on the contractor if the delivery delivery was not received at the deadline agreed to in the contract is the taxpayer going to eat every additional million dollar of overtime or is that something the contractor is going to pick up who's who's on the line for this overspending that we're seeing right now I can address that ranking member or work quickly if you could because I haven't sure have put it into context we do most of the time voluntary overtime and my budget for voluntary overtime in education is about six million a year we needed 2 million more to get through August and September to do this work again this is mandatory we're pulling out all the stops in the nor in a normal year we do voluntary overtime for the surge periods to make maintain our timeliness but I would admit if the system were working and if it were delivered on time you would not have had to consume that overtime for this project and it could have been applied to something else there's got to be other need there if you have that if that budget line there so but I'm gonna move on to other questions mr. undersecretary when will the system be ready I don't have a date for you at this point sir what I tried to explain is we're in the process is not a dysfunctional cross that is that process of testing and evaluating and when we've completed that we'll have a date we told you we would tell you what what's what's the total additional cost incurred over what was first budgeted for this system including the overtime the four million I don't know the total we should know that and I'm submitting that for the record and I would love for you to get back to this committee within a week what additional costs do you projects taking on in order to get this system ready I'll take that for the record we'd love to have that within a week general Worley you mentioned claims being completed on time what is on timing under 30 days our targets for original claims which is the original applications 28 days what do you ok historically we've done much much better than that and for supplemental claims 14 days and historically we've been in the single digits for those with our automation and 92 today there are 92 claims that are overnight over 90 days thank you for that when will you resolve those 92 claims the the thousand claims over 60 days and the 10,000 additional claims at over 30 days we work those every day the reason they're that old primarily is because we're waiting information either from the veteran from the school or from the Department of Defense we've worked at the department defense to get us the service information so we work those and work them off every day they'll never get to zero because you're always going to have development going on for those claims or are you saying that from your side of the problem you all have done as much as you can you're waiting responses back from the veterans or the the educational institution or some other third party in those cases yes but we don't just sit around and wait we we you know we ask the questions and we have systems to communicate with the DoD and others to try to get the answers that we need so that we can process the claims okay and then do you need this is something the chairman the subcommittee was was asking and mr. Takano asses well do you need any additional authorization or appropriation is there anything from our end that you need at this time and share the frustration of committee there's we appreciate all the support of the committee this isn't a funding issue this isn't a people issue per se although we have hired additional people to work this this is an issue of getting through the complexity of the software something that just came in that I would bring to your attention if you didn't already know about it Columbia University is limiting student veterans ability to register for classes for the spring if they have outstanding balances the result of delayed GI bill payments I haven't checked the veracity of this I just would bring it to your attention we as this hearing has progressed folks have been getting in touch with us on social media saying that this is the case again I guess those those are my outstanding questions mr. chairman and and some of them were waiting on the undersecretary to get back to us on I've asked that they be received within a week these should be things that we know how much we've spent over the projected amount and we should have a good estimate of what we're going to spend going forward or we're in greater trouble than I thought thank you I couldn't agree more thank you for the line of questioning questioning and now I recognize mr. banks for five minutes Thank You mr. chairman mr. crow is it true that says August when this system was supposed to go live that you've received an additional 80 user cases from the VA which are the requirements that the software needs to perform and if so have how have these requirements impacted the timely delivery of the modifications to LT s sure as as dr. Lawrence said earlier there was a pause taken in August to take a look at the functionality and if every user case was accommodating all the many different variations like you can have through Co Mary and that resulted in 83 additional user cases from a time to implementation we do release code we can turn one around overnight so we went from you know working with the VA we would turn these around fairly quickly and we went from release code I think it was 18 in August and July we're at release code 29 right now so it's 11 different release codes we use agile development we just kind of you know an iterative base of keep working and then as user acceptance testing goes we have people over the shoulder and if there's something that comes up or there's a defect or any kind of issue we are doing real-time patches and like I say we delivered release code Candidate 27 on November 7th it's been in testing and there's been no issues that I'm aware of but we continue let me let me cut through all that so 83 since August that was a result of the pause and it was because there was many today you said 27 before that yeah we received we worked on 11 of them that came in in the January through April timeframe there was an additional 16 that we continued to work on there were in draft format we finalized the 27th one why I said July 20th or something like that or July 12th I think was July 12th we received and then we turned that around very quickly and we were able to get a release candidate into into the VA as hen's with a 27th okay thank you mr. James the contract is to deliver software but strictly speaking it buys scrum teams which are teams of software developers to do software development sprints you have been adding scrum teams throughout the year how many scrum teams and software development spreads Sprint's are you up to now congressman I don't have the exact number so let me take that for the record I think it was we started with 2 we added two I think we added two more but you know I need to get the exact number for you so you can't tell Sam how many scrum teams not off the top of my head how many scrum teams are in action today no or how many people at all would be necessary to get this done the the development teams that are working in Charleston and that's referring to of the scrum teams that's the actions and the software folks there in the Booz Allen Hamilton facility and of course what happens after that is that as software is built then it has to get tested there are so in terms of the scrum teams as rich Crowe just mentioned they are able to turn around the software in response to users testing and bugs and user scenarios and so forth but that's just step one now you have to go test that software that happens in different processes and in different locations with the engagement of the users so the fact is that our testing tail end of this process can't keep up with the development processes the scrum teams as you mentioned that's part of the technical debt that we're dealing with is we have old testing systems and old testing processes that are catching the software code that is being developed by Booz Allen Hamilton Thank You mr. chairman I yield back Thank You mr. banks I now recognize mr. tukana for five minutes Thank You mr. chairman dr. Lawrence just to be clear VA VBA has stated that it will not recoup money from anyone who was overpaid by a VA related to sections 107 and 501 and instead of write it off as an administrative error can you please confirm this so one question it was in did the instead and instead in the sentence so you're not gonna claw back money under good circumstances mr. Worley described right and there's no instead it will be an administrative error it will be an administrative error so that's what make sure that folks who are watching this hearing understand and that the media reports it correctly that that any no clawback of overpayments related to sections 107 and absolutely let me state it clearly if you have been overpaid after we do the reconciliation we will not come for that money all right Thank You general Worley you say this is not an IT it's not a money problem not a people problem what is the problem because I just what what what was missing up and tell you are you confident you say you have everything just for the record VA has everything I think the problem has been articulated as as our IT colleagues have have articulated that the difficulty of of what we're trying to take on here so I think throwing more money or more people at it I defer to IT if they need more people but from my perspective it's a matter of continuing to do the testing and continuing to wring out the software so that we can get it right and pay our veterans correctly okay dr. Lawrence your ability to actually get a timeline to get a sense of when this is going to everything's gonna be worked out I mean who are you relying on the project managers to be able to tell you this right there's a project management team I work closely with the folks here to figure out where are we so we know with certainty when we give you a date we understand what that certainty is so again it's the process we've been trying to describe test figure out what the problems are root cause analysis analyzing problems figure out the user cases and come back with the solutions when that's done we'll know the date they're accountable to you or are they accountable to ultimately the head of IT whoever is the top IT person at the VA it's a little bit about those works for bi t IT works with me the IT folks are spots all aligned to the head of IT dotted line to me thought aligned to you okay and again I just want to state the record that the IT head of IT even though we have an acting blah blah blahs you know unconfirmed and that's mr. Sandoval and I just want to state again he's not here and I think that's a glaring glaring omission in terms of us as doing oversight on our part a major person who's accountable for the IT has responsibility for IT he's not here the solid line goes to him but the other line goes to you but the guy for whom the solder line goes to mr. sound of all he's not here and that's that's a fact noted thank you thank you I think mr. chairman we need to we need to talk to that guy and it seems to me that the president and the secretary they need to make these appointments they need to fill these vacancies this is thought this is a management vacancy a critical management vacancy at the confirmed Senate level we have 45,000 vacancies at the VA 40,000 of them in in the Veterans Health Administration but this is this is a problem I don't I want to associate myself with the Chairman's remarks about a continuity problem a lack of continuity in the very top level there's been four secretaries I've been here in six years for secretaries of this department and now this critical IT position which requires a tremendous amount of technical expertise competence I think what's missing is a competent person who can be held accountable for what has happened I don't even know if anyone at this table can really explain what could have been done differently because that person is not here so I would submit mr. chairman we we need to hold another hearing with mr. Sandoval and ask him to show up so that my time is up well I appreciate your remarks and your line of questioning and I agree with you mr. Tucanos Thank You mr. chairman recognize you for five minutes thank you I think that person's nomination is sitting over in the Senate now just for clarification hasn't been I think they're cued up in a long line the the question that I'd like answered questions I'd like answered is is how much money so far to date have we spend on an IT system that doesn't work number one isn't working we don't know it doesn't we it just hasn't been implemented yet number two how much overtime have we spent the taxpayers dollars because this IT system didn't come in on time and lastly how much have we paid in overpayments to people that were not going to clawback and I think that's I will think that's the right thing to do I think you're doing absolutely the right thing there and be very difficult to do one of the concerns I have with ITV is I remember sitting here I'm the only one to Dyess it was here at the time when the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the VA secretary Shinseki set right there and spent a billion dollars trying to make the Alton Vista systems talk to each other and that's why we're doing Cerner now so that is my for us one of my frustrations that we've spent a billion dollars I have no idea where it went and I don't want to see that happen again at the end of the day that we spent I don't know how much money I'm gonna stop in a second let you try to answer those questions at we're going to be here a month or six months from now and find out that we've spent millions of dollars and we don't have a deliverable because I've seen that happen here so I'll stop in those three questions does anybody have an answer for those and we're spending what the number I have is three hundred eighty thousand dollars a week and overtime so the first two questions require us will take for the record a comprehensive answer so that we're complete and not omitting it we don't have any idea dr. Lawrence how much we've spent up until now I mean it's got to be some checks that have gone out I mean uh Nobu's Alan's not doing this because they like us you're right so so if you don't if you don't hold me to this with the ability it can answer two questions for you which will be part of the answer we will give which is the question of how much have we spent on booze how much have we spent on overtime those two are subsets not the complete answer to your first two questions and the third one will give you an estimate because as mr. Worley points out we actually will not know until we run the software who's been overpaid but we give you an estimate on that one so let's start with that you can talk about how much yes chairman so far we've paid to booze for the Cole Murray act parts of the contract 1.2 million dollars that does not include the software that mr. Crowe was talking about that has not been you know invoiced yet so 1.2 million today to date so it's not a it's not a money issue we've the funds are there to do what you need to do correct okay I appreciate that and I appreciate your candor in that and just for the record and and maybe you want to answer this or not but our committee was asked not we were asked not to send a team to Muskogee in the report I got back from Muskogee was those folks are working hard and they were very very I mean I got a glowing report so the people who were there trying to make this system work and I can't imagine the frustration they must have when the system crash is over and over and they got to start all over again and go I mean I know I am when I'm doing this and something I want to throw it as far as I can I can't imagine what what they're going through out there and and have you all made a visit out there to talk to these three areas if someone made a trip out there and and and shared what you're trying to do to help make their jobs a little easier yes sir so we made a visit the next week after your team went out there we regularly talked to them don't forget the regional office director reports to a district director who reports the opposite field operation they hold regular communications around these issues okay I was the one who suggested your team not go because again the time your team spent with our people was time they were not processing claims well I'm gonna I'm gonna interrupt you right there and and I and I will say this as the chairman of this committee I would not have learned anything sitting in that office right back there so I had to get out and travel all over this country and go firsthand to people and see what they were doing putting my eyeballs on the problem I didn't and I don't know again why you would have asked us not to go we're trying to help make this better not worse and we can't do it unless we have accurate information I didn't say not go I said not go during our peak processing week when those people should have been processing claims the five from your team and the two from the local senator were there for a day and a half it took fifteen of our members to 15 of our team to provide information and do things with them it was invaluable what they learned no doubt I didn't say don't go I wish it would have waited a couple weeks so those people could have processed claims that being said the things you learn were valuable and I want to be transparent on what my perspective was I'm happier when your team was glowing that the our team was glowing the next one that I thought the peak was back in August not not almost in November the peak was in September and October and that's what you were seeing being worked on it was a day to that that we went out there 24th of October I was two weeks ago that was at the end of the peak that's right we were processing 12,000 claims a day those 15 people that's a non-trivial part of our workforce sir so again what I was doing was articulating Avett remaining you have totally in your workforce 24,000 and the education workforce is about took 15 and that wasn't enough to paralyze the whole didn't stay paralyzed sir it had consequences there opportunity cost you're always welcome every member of this committee and all their staff is welcome to come to all our facilities at any time they want okay now yield back Thank You mr. chairman appreciate your engagement and in being here with us today at this hearing now I want to recognize mr. Cray again for another five minutes Thank You chairman I'll try to be brief just a follow-up question on the time that it takes to process claims how long does it take to process a hardship claim you said 28 days general wokes for the regular claim sir those are those are our targets as I mentioned historically we do it much faster than that the 28 days is for an original application okay because it takes longer because we're verifying service information and those types of things but once an individual's in school and the school sends in that certification in in 40 to 50 percent of those cases they go through our automation untouched by human hands and the the checks go out within a matter of a handful of days so a hardship case though to get to your question as we solicited and gotten names from from the staff and from VSOs and others we have a hardship queue which is a protocol that we've had in place for a long long time it wasn't just instituted for this where they get put into a hardship queue and those hardship queues are cleared out virtually every day so within three to five days or so after that claim is processed the individual has money in the bank thank you follow-up question which is want to be part of the solution there's a lot of challenges here I'm gonna have to this is a work in progress so to speak and can I work with your office so I can get the information out to my veterans California is home to the largest number of veterans in the country in my area in Orange County we have plenty of young veterans coming back from servicing a country I'd like to work with you to get the message out your 1-800 number or whatever it is we need to do to make sure the veterans are connected immediately to a solution should they find a problem so later on off offline we'll talk about to get the message out through my office to our veterans yes absolutely thank you very much mr. chairman our yield Thank You mr. Correa if if you guys would indulge me with one question just a follow up question one it may be one and a half but it'll be real quick mr. James you're with the IT outfit and mr. Galvan I think you're without IT outfit have you all been to muss muss geeky less geeky I'm from Texas yes sir yes we have we accompany dr. Lawrence okay okay and dr. Lawrence let's conclude with this and I want the folks who are watching and listening and I want my colleagues to be clear about your answer to this do you have a sense of confidence that you are getting your arms around this and that this issue will be resolved we won't yet put a time on it but do you have confidence that this issue will be resolved in the near term yes absolutely and you have high confidence it will be yes okay if you have the information I'm not trying to trap you or trick you but if you have enough information that you have a high confidence it will be solved then you ought to have enough information to give us a time frame you should listen it'd be one thing if you're just we're still digging into it it's it's we don't know what we've got you know we're not sure yet and we're still listen if you're confident that confident I believe you owe this committee and the veterans who we all serve a timeframe and so I'm gonna ask that you submit that for the record like we're going to need the responses to questions that were asked today and we will follow up with it but I think everybody up here feels like if you all feel like you're getting your arms around it you feel like it's going to be resolved in in in the near term you ought to be able to give us a time frame so we're gonna expect that and and you can go back and talk to the secretary and the CIO acting and come up with the time frame so that we can we can continue to hold you accountable because that's our job can't really hold you accountable if you don't have that that date if you also indulge me and just saying a few kind things about my colleague from Texas this is I think our last hearing right and I think it's gonna be our last hearing for this Congress and I didn't have any prepared remarks but I've got to say one of the joys of my service mr. chairman and thank you for the opportunity to serve as chairman over this committee I sure hope we've pushed hard fought hard worked well with all to try to make a difference for our veterans in our country I could not have done this without bento O'Rourke and so yeah please one of the most gratifying experiences of serving in Congress has been serving on this committee and the subcommittee working with Beto and it's because we are red white and blue in here and it's so refreshing and we do battle and we have wildly different views I'm certain on many issues but you wouldn't know it the way he treats me and I hope the way I treat him and we need a whole lot more of that in this place but you really set the tone because I'm just a freshman and you you you were such a great support and and you have helped me lead in a way that we were all effective and productive for our main customer the veteran so they're not enough words to say thank you appropriately but as a fellow Texan I think you get the drift right well god bless you and your family and thank you for your service to this country Beto and with that I ask unanimous consent that all members have five legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material without objection so ordered my promise still enough though who's never around

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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