Hagel lauded as early VA EHR protector

Joe Conn | Modern Healthcare IT | January 11, 2013
In 1981, Hagel, then age 35 and a former Army sergeant who received two Purple Hearts for wounds in Vietnam, was fresh from the campaign of newly elected President Ronald Reagan. He provided some badly needed political support for the rebel programmers, who had collectively begun to see themselves as members of the VA's “Underground Railroad.”

The mavericks included Tom Munnecke, who started working at the VA in 1978 and left in 1986 to help develop for the Defense Department a clone of the VA's clinical computer system that's still in use by the Military Health System.

“I was pleased to read that Chuck Hagel has been nominated to the position of Secretary of Defense,” wrote Munnecke, now a San Diego-based health IT consultant, in a blog post recollection Thursday. “He was the Deputy Director of the VA when I worked for the Loma Linda (Calif.) VA Hospital, working on what would become the VistA Electronic Health Record system, one of the largest and most successful EHRs. Starting with very humble beginnings as a 'skunkworks,' Chuck played a key role in helping to evolve our early back-room prototypes into a VA-wide electronic health record that has won many awards and accolades by physicians.”...