Processing system will speed claims, care, new VA secretary tells Tampa crowd

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TAMPA — Speaking to a gathering of the nation’s oldest veterans service organization, Robert Wilkie introduced himself Friday as new Department of Veterans Affairs secretary and touted a plan to fix one of the oldest challenges facing those who served.

A new electronics record-keeping system will streamline efforts by veterans to obtain health care and other benefits, Wilkie told those attending the 123rd Annual Convention of Jewish War Veterans. The new system is designed for smoother transition of records from the Defense Department to the VA, speeding up what can be years of waiting.

"It is long past time that warriors like my father stopped carrying around an 800-page record," Wilkie said, drawing applause from the audience. His father, Robert Leon Wilkie, was an Army officer severely wounded during the Vietnam War.

In May, as acting secretary, Wilkie signed a contract valued at up to $10 billion over 10 years with health information company Cerner Corp. to adopt the same records-keeping system as the Pentagon. The result is expected to be seamless sharing of information through a secure system among Defense, the VA and community providers.

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