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Congratulations to Halfaker and Associates, LLC on the $10M VA Software Engineering Support Services Revenue Cycle Management contract award.

The technology solutions provider received the award under the Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology Next Generation (T4NG) contract vehicle. Halfaker will work with VA’s Office of Community Care (OCC) Revenue Operations (RO) to improve user experience and the quality of Veteran-facing systems by providing project management, requirements analysis, design, development, integration, and testing focused on the Accounts Receivable (AR), Integrated Billing (IB) modules of Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), Consolidate Billing Statement System (CBSS), and Veterans Billing Statement System (VBS). The SE RCM task is a two-year, $10M program that will support VA’s OCC Revenue Operations.

Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, Halfaker was founded by Army veteran Dawn Halfaker, who also serves as the company’s CEO.

“As the OCC RO continues to assess, monitor and drive VHA compliance with healthcare regulatory requirements, the systems that enable these operations must continuously mature and evolve in a rapid and scalable manner,” said Ms. Halfaker. “We are ready to support VA’s OCC RO in every aspect of enhancing critical VistA modules so that they can continue to serve our Veterans.”

With a track record of strong VA customer relationships and outstanding performance across large, enterprise-level modernization programs, Halfaker delivers feature-driven agile development, leveraging automated build, test, and deployment processes to guarantee rapid, reliable, timely, and high-quality software releases. Halfaker leverages diverse teams to conduct operations and achieve all program objectives in adherence to VA’s Veteran-focused Integration Process (VIP) guidelines. Their cloud technology experts engineer customer-centric solutions by adapting the latest tools, standards and techniques to meet the client’s strategic goals, modernize mission-critical applications, reduce backend risks, and increase scalability for future optimization.

 

By Debbie Gregory.

The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and IBM Watson Health have announced an extension of their partnership to bring artificial intelligence and genomic analytics to cancer care.

Watson’s AI is used to identify the specific cancer genome present in a patient and using that knowledge to tailor treatment. The VA’s precision oncology program has treated more than 2,700 veterans, primarily with stage 4 cancer who are eligible for alternative treatment options.

The computer system was initially developed to answer questions on the quiz show Jeopardy! and, in 2011,  Watson competed against legendary champions Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, beating out the top competitors.

But Watson’s mission in the VA is meant to serve a much higher purpose.

“Our mission with VA’s precision oncology program is to bring the most advanced treatment opportunities to Veterans, in hopes of giving our nation’s heroes better treatments through these breakthroughs,” said Acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke.

Watson for Oncology has received some less-than-flattering press; last September, the health care news site Stat News found that “the supercomputer isn’t living up to the lofty expectations IBM created for it.”

The supercomputer came under fire for providing incorrect and ‘unsafe’ healthcare treatment advice to cancer patients. In one example, a patient was recommended a drug that could lead to severe or fatal hemorrhage while he was already dealing with severe bleeding due to his condition.

“It is still struggling with the basic step of learning about different forms of cancer,” Stat reported. “Only a few dozen hospitals have adopted the system, which is a long way from IBM’s goal of establishing dominance in a multibillion-dollar market.”

The VA treats 3.5 percent of the nation’s cancer patients, the largest group of cancer patients within any one healthcare entity. The department isn’t paying for Watson, with the latest extension in the partnership still part of a free trial.

By Debbie Gregory

Potentia Labs, the developer of a unique interactive e-learning platform that teaches emotional wellness skills like resilience and mindfulness, has been awarded a contract by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to create a program specifically for veterans suffering from PTSD and depression.

Potentia Labs won the Department of Veterans Affairs Industry Innovation Competition.

Potentia works via an online platform and mobile app, concentrating on positive traits, such as resilience, confidence, optimism and mindfulness.

Dustin Milner, cofounder of Potentia, said that due to their military training, veterans often have trouble attending and sticking with traditional therapy.

Many veterans who are diagnosed with PTSD have trouble acknowledging weakness. By building on veterans’ existing strengths to help them become the best version of themselves, Potentia works on every area of psychological, social, and emotional well-being and performance. Backed by science, the tool is designed to provide experiences on a daily basis, and it only takes 3 to 5 minutes a day.

The connection to veterans is personal for the company, according to Milner. Cofounder Eric Lenhardt is an Army veteran who has undergone treatment for PTSD in the past.

Potentia’s first-of-its-kind app is packed with dynamic courses created by experts to help build skills like mental toughness and emotional agility—the tools everyone needs to navigate life, work, and family.

The company aims to customize and expand the platform by mixing together gaming technology, instructional design, and expertise from psychologists.

Beginning in July, 2018, the platform will begin an 18-month trial at a California VA center.

 


According to the most recent census data, there are 2.45 million veteran-owned businesses in the U.S. Veteran entrepreneurs contribute to the economy through their businesses and their willingness to hire veterans.
There are a number of funding resources available to veterans in order to get their business off the ground, or expand an existing business.
• The Office of Veterans Business Development, through the Small Business Administration (SBA) supports new and existing veteran entrepreneurs and military spouses. The program offers a variety of training and financial services. The SBA Veterans Advantage Guaranteed Loans program offers loans of $150,000 or less with no guaranty fee. Larger loans carry a low guarantee fee. SBA Express Loans have no upfront borrower fee for eligible veterans and military spouses on loans up to $35,000. Leveraging Information and Networks to Access Capital matches businesses with SBA-approved non-profit lenders. The 7(a) Loan Program is the SBA’s most common loan program, and includes financial help for businesses with special requirements.
• The Department of Veteran Affairs is a great starting point when looking for financing, and has created the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP), which can help you quickly identify financing resources for your business.
• The Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan provide funds to eligible small businesses to meet necessary operating expenses that it could have met, but is unable to meet, because an owner/essential employee was “called-up” to active duty.
• The USDA Veteran and Minority Farmer Grant, run by the Department of Agriculture, aims to bring traditionally underserved people into farming through training and technical and financial assistance.
• The VetFran(R) program is designed to help veterans start their own business. While these aren’t traditional business loans for veterans, the program offers financial incentive for veterans to launch a franchise.
In addition to lending resources, don’t discount the value of networking resources. Who better to share advice than those who have walked the path before you?
• American Corporate Partners links veteran entrepreneurs with successful businesspeople for training and mentorship.
• National Veteran-Owned Business Association presents you with a great networking opportunity and the chance to learn much more about running a business.
• SCORE Foundation Veteran Fast Launch Initiative offers advertising, marketing and business mentoring, all at no cost.

• Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families provides entrepreneurial training. Their Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans program is free for post-9/11 veterans.
• Veterans Business Resource Center provides business consulting and mentoring.
• Veterans Business Services can assist in obtaining capital for your business.

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