New documents obtained by government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington have lent credence to the idea that Department of Veterans Affairs health IT strategy has been shaped by a group of three unelected associates of President Trump.
Marvel Chairman Isaac Perlmutter, lawyer Marc Sherman and physician Bruce Moscovitz – who have associated with President Trump through their membership in Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort club – have formed an unofficial troika with authority over VA department affairs, the documents say.
Much to the consternation of career staff, the trio – dubbed the “Mar-a-Lago guys” – have sent unsolicited input about VA policy, while also displaying startling ignorance in the subjects on which they are purporting to give input and guidance.
In one email sent to a colleague, the VA Executive Director for the Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) described a meeting with two of the individuals as a “grin and bear it session.”
In another missive, an EHRM staffer called questions asked by the individuals as “ridiculous” pointing to a “basic a lack of understanding of interoperability, the solutions, radiology, etc.”
The documents show that in some cases accommodating the trio of advisors led to issues that slowed down the government’s efforts to work with Cerner, the EHR vendor chosen by the VA for a $16 billion contract to implement its software.
In one case, Moskowitz sent an email to career staff demanding to “be on every call that the group is on the discuss the contract.” Previous reporting showed Moskowitz’ skepticism of Cerner due to his personal experiences using the company’s tools as a clinician.
Additionally, the documents have highlighted potential conflict-of-interest issues involving the group, who have allegedly looked to steer VA contracts to associates and family members.
It’s still unclear what role the group has played in some of the issues regarding the the roll-out of Cerner’s VA project which has been beset by continual technical glitches, resignations and delays.
Recently, Politico reported that the project hit another stumbling block and could be forced to delay its planned initial rollout next year by six months.