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Veterans Health Initiative Amendment by Rep. Norman Adopted with NDAA Legislation

Congressman Ralph Norman (SC-05) has sponsored an amendment to H.R. 6395, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, which was introduced in the House on July 13, 2020.

This amendment was adopted in the House on Tuesday, and would authorize the Department of Energy (“DOE”) to collaborate with the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) on research to improve healthcare services for veterans using artificial intelligence and high-performance computing. This effort would be carried out using funds already appropriated following enactment. No additional funds would be authorized to be appropriated.

Background Information

Over the years, the Veterans Administration has acquired a significant amount of healthcare data on our veterans, including medical history and genomic information. This data has been provided voluntarily by over 600,000 men and women who served.

Within these massive data sets are trends, patterns, and correlations that can help the better care for our veterans. But the problem is the VA doesn’t have the computing power or expertise to analyze it all. In other words, more advanced computing capabilities are needed than what the VA currently has.

That’s where the Department of Energy (DOE) can help. The DOE is an ideal partner to help the VA in this situation. Of the world’s top ten fastest supercomputers, the DOE owns half of them. That includes the world’s fastest at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Plus, the DOE coordinates and funds research used to solve a wide range of complex big data challenges, so this is right in their wheelhouse. A partnership between the VA and DOE will help extract meaningful insights from the VA’s data, and ultimately help provide better care for our nation’s veterans.

Also note: this amendment coincides with H.R. 617, which was introduced by Rep. Norman on January 16, 2019 and passed the House on July 23, 2019. A companion bill in the Senate, S. 143, has not yet advanced passed the Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Therefore, moving this effort forward as an amendment to the current NDAA legislation should help bring this endeavor to fruition more quickly.

Congressman Norman has released the following statement:

"Our veterans deserve, and need, access to better healthcare services and our scientists should remain on the cutting edge of big data analytics and machine learning. The DOE and VA should be able to work together to improve the medical care of our veterans, who have sacrificed so much for our nation. 

"I am honored to be sponsoring legislation that will not only work to ensure our veterans receive the best care they need, but also ensures our nation remains a leader in innovation and technological advancement.”