November 02, 2023

Manchin Questions VA Officials on Prioritizing AI Development, Veterans' Mental Health

Washington, DC – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, questioned Department of Veterans’ Affairs officials on prioritizing artificial intelligence (AI) development to strengthen Veterans’ healthcare, the ownership of VA data for AI applications and identifying Veterans’ mental health issues.

On prioritzing AI development to strenghten Veterans' healthcare:

“I’d like to focus on the VA’s National Artificial Intelligence Institute. There’s no reason the VA shouldn’t be the world leader in adopting AI into healthcare practices. If implemented properly, it could be revolutionary in easing our staffing issues, monitoring our patients’ safety, predicting diseases, mental illness and all the things that go with that, creating novel treatments, and thousands of other applications. So, how is the work at the VA’s AI Institute being prioritized?” Senator Manchin questioned in part.

On the ownership of VA data for AI applications:

“I’m Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Cybersecurity Subcommittee, and I’ve learned that AI is useless without accurate, massive databases. So, does the VA own all of its data? Are you including what is created by contractors? Do you have access to all of the contractors’ data? And who is managing that for you?” Senator Manchin continued.

On identifying and treating Veterans’ mental health issues:

“I thank you for your work on mental illness, suicide and all of the problems we’re having with our Veterans. When someone is retiring and coming back from combat and they’ve been diagnosed with challenges, is that forwarded onto you?...Are you made aware of all of their medical conditions and records upon discharge?” Senator Manchin questioned.

The witnesses were Rachel Ramoni, Chief Research and Development Officer, Office of Research and Development; Patricia Hastings, Chief Consultant, Health Outcomes and Military Exposures; Sumitra Muralidhar, Program Director, Million Veteran Program; and Matthew J. Kuntz, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness Montana.

A video of Senator Manchin’s questioning can be found here.