The Department of Veterans Affairs is challenging software developers to create new systems that schedule appointments in VA's nationwide health system.

"This contest marks a major change in direction by VA, away from software that is so customized that only VA can use it, toward open standards and commercial systems that build on proven practices," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "The competition will help us serve veterans by encouraging ideas to provide more personalized care."

Through a Medical Appointment Scheduling System (MASS) Contest, hosted on the site VA will honor the creation of an open-source and open application program interface (API)-based system to replace components of VA's 25-year old scheduling software in its VistA electronic health system.

"For the last 18 months, we have been working with the open source community to support the change in direction. Today we announce yet another project supported by that community," said Roger Baler, VA assistant secretary for information technology.

The contest was formally announced in the Federal Register on Oct. 16, 2012. Registration is due by May 13, and all entries must be finalized by June 13.

The MASS Contest is driven by VA's decision to transition its VistA electronic health system into an openly architected product and to challenge developers to offer standards-based modular components that can be extended and modified much more easily than customized products.

Proprietary commercial systems are eligible for prizes, but all entries in the contest will be required to have open connections, or APIs. Entries with substandard open source content will be especially welcomed. VA plans to announce winners on or about Sept. 30. Contestants, to be judged, will contribute the open APIs and any open source content in their entries to the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent. VA will use the results of the contest to design final specification for an appointment scheduling system to be deployed nationally.

Information is available at the contest website:

Four Chaplains Benefit: Summit County Veterans Council Annual "For God and Country" dinner and program will be Feb. 2. at Acker-Moore Memorial Post, 3733 Fishcreek Road, in Stow.

Hospitality starts at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 p.m. and program at 7 p.m.

For tickets, at $17 each, contact Jim Forsythe, Jr. at 330-673-7638, or mail checks to 4786 Estes Drive, Brimfield, OH 44240. The proceeds will benefit The Chapel of the Four Chaplains.

Four Chaplains Service: The annual Four Chaplains service, in honor of the four brave clergymen who gave up their life jackets to troops aboard the troop transport U.S.S. Dorchester some 70 years ago on Feb. 3, 1943 will be Feb. 3, at 11 am., at St. Martin of Tours Church, 14600 Turney Road, Maple Heights. Chaplain Dave Rembowski of the sponsoring American Legion Post 309 asks that Legion, Auxiliary, S.A.L. members and guests attending the service be at the church by 10:40 a.m.

Remember to write a letter to our men and women serving America in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and at other assignments around the world. Send them a package of goodies, and say a prayer for their safe return.