VA Technology Chief ‘Can’t Take Another Four Years’

Photograph by John Moore/Getty Images

Homeless U.S. military veterans stand in line for free services at a ‘Stand Down’ event hosted by the Department of Veterans Affairs in Denver, Colorado.

Roger Baker, the Department of Veterans Affairs chief information officer, says his decision to resign on March 8 isn’t tied to a better offer — he just needs to “recharge some batteries.”

Baker, who’s overseen some of the VA’s most challenging issues such as its efforts to create a joint electronic health records system with the Defense Department, said he took the job in 2009 with the intention to stick around for two terms.

“It was my intention to stay for eight years when I got here, but frankly I can’t take another four years,” Baker told reporters during a conference call today. “It is a very demanding job.”

The position requires 11 or 12 hours of work a day, on top of an hour-long bus ride into Washington in the morning and the metro home at night, he said. He hasn’t decided his next move, but said he “owes it” to his family, himself and veterans to step aside.

“You cannot outwork Ric Shinseki,” Baker said, referring to the VA’s secretary. “He is here when you come in, he is here when you go. If you’re going to run with that pack, you better have your tennis shoes laced real tight.”

The VA hasn’t made any decisions yet about Baker’s replacement, Jo Schuda, an agency spokesperson, said.

Baker shied away from bragging about his accomplishments, noting that when he took the job the VA faced criticism for spending more than $100 million on software that didn’t deliver.

“At least now we’re talking about systems in the field that may not be as good
as we’d like them to be,” Baker said.

The VA and Pentagon announced this month they’d scrap plans to build an entirely new shared health records system, and instead focus on combining health data through existing technologies to cut costs and speed up delivery. Baker had overseen much of that effort.

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