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Testimony before the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, Committee on 
Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

GAO: 

For Release on Delivery Expected at 2:00 p.m. EDT: 

Thursday, April 19, 2007: 

VA Student Financial Aid: 

Actions Needed to Reduce Overlap in Approval Activities: 

Statement of George A. Scott, Director: 
Education, Workforce and Income Security Issues: 

GAO-07-775T: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-07-775T, a testimony before the Subcommittee on 
Economic Opportunity, Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, House of 
Representatives 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

In fiscal year 2006, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) paid $19 
million to state approving agencies (SAA) to assess whether schools and 
training programs are of sufficient quality for veterans to receive VA 
education assistance benefits when attending them. The Departments of 
Education and Labor also assess education and training programs for 
various purposes. This testimony describes (1) changes that have 
occurred in state approving agencies’ duties and functions since 1995, 
(2) the extent to which the SAA approval process overlaps with efforts 
by the Departments of Education and Labor, and (3) the additional value 
that SAA approval activities bring to VA education benefit programs. 

This testimony is based on a March 2007 report (GAO-07-384). 

What GAO Found: 

Since 1995, legislative changes effective in 2001 created additional 
responsibilities for SAAs, including promoting the development of 
apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs, providing outreach 
services, and approving tests for occupational licensing. From fiscal 
years 2003 to 2006, SAA funding increased from $13 million to $19 
million to expand services and support the additional responsibilities. 
However, funding is scheduled to decrease beginning in fiscal year 
2008. 

Many education and training programs approved by SAAs have also been 
approved by Education or Labor, and VA has taken few steps to 
coordinate approval activities with these agencies. More than two-
thirds of all programs approved by SAAs are offered by institutions 
that have been certified by Education. Many apprenticeship programs 
approved by SAAs have also been approved by Labor, although 
apprenticeship programs make up less than 2 percent of all programs 
approved by SAAs. Similar categories of approval standards, such as 
student achievement, exist across agencies, but the specific standards 
within each category vary and the full extent of the overlap is 
unknown. For example, VA requires schools to give appropriate credit 
for prior learning while Education does not have such a requirement. 
Despite the overlap in approved programs and standards, VA and SAAs 
have made limited efforts to coordinate approval activities with other 
federal agencies. VA does not require SAAs to collect information on 
the amount of resources they spend on specific approval activities; 
therefore, information is not available to determine the amount of 
resources spent on SAA duties and functions, including those that may 
overlap with those of other agencies. 

SAAs reportedly add value to the approval process for education and 
training programs, but the lack of outcome-oriented performance 
measures makes it difficult to assess the significance of their 
efforts. Areas of added value include (1) a focus on student services 
for veterans and on the integrity of VA benefits, (2) more frequent on-
site monitoring of education and training programs than provided by 
Education or Labor, and (3) assessments and approval of a small number 
of programs that are not reviewed by other agencies. States, schools, 
and apprenticeship officials we spoke with reported that without SAAs, 
the quality of education for veterans would not change. However, 
veterans’ receipt of benefits could be delayed and the time required to 
complete their education and training programs could increase. Despite 
areas of apparent added value, it is difficult to fully assess the 
significance of SAA efforts. VA measures some outputs, such as the 
number of supervisory visits SAAs conduct, but it does not have outcome-
oriented performance measures, such as the amount of benefit 
adjustments resulting from SAAs’ reviews, to evaluate the overall 
effectiveness of SAAs. 

What GAO Recommends: 

We recommended that VA take steps to monitor SAA spending and 
duplication of efforts with other agencies and that VA establish 
outcome-oriented performance measures to assess the effectiveness of 
SAA efforts. VA agreed with our recommendations and stated that it will 
take actions to address them. 

[Hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-775T]. 

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact George Scott at (202) 512-
7215 or scottg@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Madame Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I am pleased to be here today to present information from our March 
2007 report on state approving agencies (SAA).[Footnote 1] In fiscal 
year 2006, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) paid approximately 
$2.1 billion in education assistance benefits to more than 470,000 
beneficiaries and about $19 million to state approving agencies to 
assess whether schools and training programs offer education of 
sufficient quality for veterans to receive VA education assistance 
benefits when attending them. Qualified individuals--veterans, service 
persons, reservists, and certain spouses and dependents--receive 
benefits through a number of education assistance programs for the 
pursuit of various types of programs, such as a degree program, 
vocational program, apprenticeship, or on-the-job training. In general, 
these programs must be approved by an SAA in order for qualified 
individuals to receive VA education assistance benefits. Under 
contracts with VA, SAAs ensure that education and training programs 
meet VA standards through a variety of approval activities, such as 
evaluating course quality, assessing school financial stability, and 
monitoring student progress. 

The Departments of Education (Education) and Labor (Labor) also assess 
education and training programs for various purposes, primarily for 
awarding student aid and providing apprenticeship assistance. These 
assessments are based, in part, on evaluations against standards set by 
laws and regulations, such as those applicable to accrediting agencies. 
In 2006, under Title IV of the Higher Education Act, Education provided 
nearly $77 billion in student aid in the form of both grants and loans. 
Education assesses and certifies postsecondary institutions for 
participation in Title IV programs through various oversight functions 
to ensure that these schools meet federal administrative and financial 
requirements and that they are accredited and licensed. Similarly, 
under the National Apprenticeship Act of 1937, Labor is authorized to 
formulate and promote the furtherance of labor standards to safeguard 
the welfare of apprentices. To ensure programs comply with federal 
standards, Labor directly registers and oversees apprenticeship 
programs in less than half of the states and has given state 
apprenticeship agencies or councils in the remaining states such 
authority over their own programs. 

Given each agency's role, the potential of duplicative efforts among 
federal agencies has been a congressional concern. In 1995, GAO 
reported on this matter and concluded that there was a substantial 
amount of overlap between the efforts of SAAs and the other federal 
agencies.[Footnote 2] My testimony today is based on information from 
our recent report and will focus on (1) changes that have occurred in 
state approving agencies' duties and functions since 1995, (2) the 
extent to which the SAA approval process overlaps with efforts by the 
Departments of Education and Labor, and (3) the additional value that 
SAA approval activities bring to VA education benefit programs. 

In summary, we found that: 

* Since 1995, legislative changes effective in 2001 created additional 
responsibilities for SAAs, including promoting the development of 
apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs, providing outreach 
services, and approving tests for occupational licensing.[Footnote 3] 
From fiscal years 2003 to 2006, SAA funding increased from $13 million 
to $19 million to expand services and support the additional 
responsibilities. However, funding is scheduled to decrease beginning 
in fiscal year 2008. 

* Many education and training programs approved by SAAs have also been 
approved by Education or Labor, and VA and SAAs have taken few steps to 
coordinate approval activities with these agencies. In addition, 
information is not available to determine the amount of resources spent 
on SAA duties and functions, including those that may overlap with 
other agencies and programs. 

* SAAs reportedly add value to the approval process for education and 
training programs through (1) a focus on student services for veterans 
and on the integrity of VA benefits, (2) more frequent on-site 
monitoring of education and training programs than provided by 
Education or Labor, and (3) assessments and approval of a small number 
of programs that are not reviewed by other agencies. However, VA's lack 
of outcome-oriented performance measures for evaluating SAAs makes it 
difficult to assess the significance of these efforts. 

To help ensure that federal dollars are spent efficiently and 
effectively, our report recommended that the Secretary of the 
Department of Veterans Affairs take steps to monitor SAA spending and 
identify whether any resources are spent on activities that duplicate 
the efforts of other agencies. We also recommended that the Secretary 
establish outcome-oriented performance measures to assess the 
effectiveness of SAA efforts. VA agreed with our findings and 
recommendations and stated that it will take a number of steps to 
address them. 

To conduct our work, we reviewed applicable laws, regulations, and 
program materials; and interviewed officials from each of the entities 
involved in the various approval processes, including federal agencies, 
state approving agencies, schools and training programs. We also 
reviewed and analyzed data on approval decisions from VA, Education, 
and Labor. Our work was performed in accordance with generally accepted 
government auditing standards. 

Background: 

VA, Education, and Labor assess education and training programs for 
various purposes. VA's approval process is meant to ensure that 
education and training programs meet VA standards for receipt of 
veteran education assistance benefits, while Education's and Labor's 
processes are primarily for awarding student aid and providing 
apprenticeship assistance. 

VA administers a number of programs designed to assist individuals in 
gaining access to postsecondary education or training for a specific 
occupation (see table 1). VA generally provides its assistance in the 
form of payments to veterans, service persons, reservists, and certain 
spouses and dependents. 

Table 1: VA Beneficiaries of and Funding for Education and Training 
Assistance Programs in Fiscal Year 2006: 

Programs *: Montgomery GI Bill (Chapter 30); 
Beneficiaries: 313,766; 
Expenditures: $1,909,014,605. 

Programs *: Reserve Educational Assistance Program (Chapter 1607); 
Beneficiaries: 23,747; 
Expenditures: $151,397,610. 

Programs *: Educational Assistance for the Selected Reserve (Chapter 
1606); 
Beneficiaries: 65,145; 
Expenditures: $48,716,031. 

Programs *: Dependents and Survivors Educational Assistance Program 
(Chapter 35); 
Beneficiaries: 74,532; 
Expenditures: $38,787,332. 

Programs *: Veterans Educational Assistance Program (Chapter 32); 
Beneficiaries: 575; 
Expenditures: $59,113. 

Programs *: Total; 
Beneficiaries: 477,765; 
Expenditures: $2,147,974,691. 

Source: VA. 

* No payments for the National Call to Service program were made in 
fiscal year 2006. 

[End of table] 

Benefits can be used to pursue a degree program, vocational program, 
apprenticeship, and on-the-job training (see fig. 1). Before an 
individual entitled to VA education assistance can obtain money for an 
education or training program, the program must be approved by an SAA, 
or by VA in those cases in which an SAA has not been contracted to 
perform the work. 

Figure 1: Veteran Enrollment by Program Type in Fiscal Year 2006: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: GAO analysis of VA enrollment data. 

[End of figure] 

VA's administrative structure for the education and training assistance 
programs includes its national office, which oversees the four regional 
processing offices (RPO), and the national contract with SAAs. RPOs 
administer the education assistance programs and process benefits for 
veterans. SAAs review education and training programs to determine 
which programs should be approved and ensure schools and training 
providers are complying with VA standards. SAAs have six core duties: 
(1) approval of programs, (2) visits to facilities, (3) technical 
assistance to individuals at facilities, (4) outreach, (5) liaison with 
other service providers, and (6) contract management. Sixty SAAs exist 
in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Eight 
states have two SAAs. SAAs are usually part of a state's department of 
education (31 SAAs). In some states, SAAs are organizationally located 
in other departments such as labor (9 SAAs) or veterans' services (19 
SAAs). 

The U.S. Department of Education's approval process is to ensure that 
schools meet federal Education standards to participate in federal 
student financial aid programs. In order for students attending a 
school to receive Title IV financial aid, a school must be (1) licensed 
or otherwise legally authorized to provide postsecondary education in 
the state in which it is located, (2) accredited by an entity 
recognized for that purpose by the Secretary of Education, and (3) 
certified to participate in federal student aid programs by Education. 
As such, the state licensing agencies, accrediting agencies, and 
certain offices within Education are responsible for various approval 
activities. 

* State licensing agencies grant legal authority to postsecondary 
institutions to operate in the state in which they are located. Each of 
the states has its own agency structure, and each state can choose its 
own set of standards. 

* Accrediting agencies develop evaluation criteria and conduct peer 
evaluations to assess whether or not those criteria are met by 
postsecondary institutions. Institutions or programs that meet an 
agency's criteria are then "accredited" by that agency. As of November 
2005, there were 60 recognized private accrediting agencies of regional 
or national scope. 

* The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education 
evaluates and recognizes accrediting agencies based on federal 
requirements to ensure these agencies are reliable authorities as to 
the quality of education or training provided by the institutions of 
higher education and the higher education programs they accredit. 

* The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Federal Student Aid 
determines the administrative and financial capacity of schools to 
participate in student financial aid programs, conducts ongoing 
monitoring of participant schools, and ensures participant schools are 
accredited and licensed by the states. 

The purpose of the Department of Labor's approval process is to 
establish and promote labor standards to safeguard the welfare of 
apprentices. Labor establishes standards and registers programs that 
meet the standards. Labor directly registers and oversees programs in 
23 states but has granted 27 states, the District of Columbia, and 3 
territories authority to register and oversee their own programs, 
conducted by state apprenticeship councils (SACs). Labor reviews the 
activities of the SACs. SACs ensure that apprenticeship programs for 
their respective states comply with federal labor standards, equal 
opportunity protections, and any additional state standards. 

Figure 2 shows the agencies responsible for the approval processes for 
the various types of education and training programs. 

Figure 2: Agencies Responsible for the Approval Process for Education 
and Training Programs: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: GAO Analysis. 

[End of figure] 

Legislative Changes Effective in 2001 Created Additional 
Responsibilities for SAAs: 

In 2001, SAAs received additional responsibilities as a result of 
legislative changes. This included responsibility for actively 
promoting the development of apprenticeship and on-the-job training 
programs and conducting more outreach activities to eligible persons 
and veterans to increase awareness of VA education assistance. SAAs 
were also charged with approving tests used for licensing and 
certification, such as tests to become a licensed electrician. For 
those tests that have been approved, veterans can use VA benefits to 
pay for testing fees. From fiscal years 2003 to 2006, SAA funding 
increased from $13 million to $19 million to expand services and 
support the additional responsibilities. Funding is scheduled to begin 
to decrease in fiscal year 2008. 

Many Education and Training Programs Approved by SAAs Have Also Been 
Approved by Education or Labor, and VA Has Taken Few Steps to 
Coordinate Approval Activities with These Agencies: 

Many education and training programs approved by SAAs have also been 
approved by Education and Labor. Sixty-nine percent of all programs 
approved by SAAs are offered by institutions that have also been 
certified by Education. Seventy-eight percent of SAA-approved programs 
in institutions of higher learning (e.g., colleges and universities) 
have been certified by Education. Also, 64 percent of SAA-approved non- 
college degree programs are in institutions that have been certified by 
Education. Although less than 2 percent of all programs approved by 
SAAs are apprenticeship programs, VA and SAA officials reported that 
many of these programs have also been approved by Labor. 

Similar categories of approval standards exist across agencies, but the 
specific standards within each category vary and the full extent of 
overlap is unknown. For example, while VA and Education's approval 
standards both have requirements for student achievement, the New 
England Association of Schools and Colleges, an accrediting agency, 
requires that students demonstrate competence in various areas such as 
writing and logical thinking, while VA does not have this requirement. 
Also among the student achievement standards, VA requires schools to 
give appropriate credit for prior learning, while Education does not 
have such a requirement. Table 2 shows the similar categories of 
standards that exist across agencies. 

Table 2: Approval Standards of Education and Training Programs Used by 
VA, Education, and Labor: 

Categories of approval standards: Student achievement; 
SAA[1,2]: IHL/NCD accredited: x; 
SAA[1,2]: IHL/NCD non-accredited: x; 
SAA[1,2]: Apprentice-ship: x; 
SAA[1,2]: On the job training: x; 
Education[3]: Education's certification: [Empty]; 
Education[3]: Federal Standards for accrediting agencies: x; 
Education[3]: Connecticut state licensing agency: x; 
Labor: Apprenticeship: x. 

Categories of approval standards: Curricula, program objectives, and 
faculty; 
SAA[1,2]: IHL/NCD accredited: x; 
SAA[1,2]: IHL/NCD non- accredited: x; 
SAA[1,2]: Apprentice-ship: x; 
SAA[1,2]: On the job training: x; 
Education[3]: Education's certification: x; 
Education[3]: Federal Standards for accrediting agencies: x; 
Education[3]: Connecticut state licensing agency: x; 
Labor: Apprenticeship: x. 

Categories of approval standards: Facilities, equipment, and supplies; 
SAA[1,2]: IHL/NCD accredited: x; 
SAA[1,2]: IHL/NCD non-accredited: x; 
SAA[1,2]: Apprentice-ship: x; 
SAA[1,2]: On the job training: x; 
Education[3]: Education's certification: [Empty]; 
Education[3]: Federal Standards for accrediting agencies: x; 
Education[3]: Connecticut state licensing agency: x; 
Labor: Apprenticeship: x. 

Categories of approval standards: Institutional objectives, capacity, 
and administration; 
SAA[1,2]: IHL/NCD accredited: x; 
SAA[1,2]: IHL/NCD non-accredited: x; 
SAA[1,2]: Apprentice-ship: [Empty]; 
SAA[1,2]: On the job training: [Empty]; 
Education[3]: Education's certification: x; 
Education[3]: Federal Standards for accrediting agencies: x; 
Education[3]: Connecticut state licensing agency: x; 
Labor: Apprenticeship: x. 

Categories of approval standards: Student support services; 
SAA[1,2]: IHL/NCD accredited: [Empty]; 
SAA[1,2]: IHL/NCD non-accredited: [Empty]; 
SAA[1,2]: Apprentice-ship: [Empty]; 
SAA[1,2]: On the job training: [Empty]; 
Education[3]: Education's certification: [Empty]; 
Education[3]: Federal Standards for accrediting agencies: x; 
Education[3]: Connecticut state licensing agency: x; 
Labor: Apprenticeship: [Empty]. 

Categories of approval standards: Recruiting and admission practices; 
SAA[1,2]: IHL/NCD accredited: x; 
SAA[1,2]: IHL/NCD non-accredited: x; 
SAA[1,2]: Apprentice-ship: [Empty]; 
SAA[1,2]: On the job training: [Empty]; 
Education[3]: Education's certification: x; 
Education[3]: Federal Standards for accrediting agencies: x; 
Education[3]: Connecticut state licensing agency: x; 
Labor: Apprenticeship: x. 

Categories of approval standards: Record of student complaints; 
SAA[1,2]: IHL/NCD accredited: [Empty]; 
SAA[1,2]: IHL/NCD non- accredited: [Empty]; 
SAA[1,2]: Apprentice-ship: [Empty]; 
SAA[1,2]: On the job training: [Empty]; 
Education[3]: Education's certification: [Empty]; 
Education[3]: Federal Standards for accrediting agencies: x; 
Education[3]: Connecticut state licensing agency: [Empty]; 
Labor: Apprenticeship: x. 

Categories of approval standards: Process related requirements (e.g. 
application requirements); 
SAA[1,2]: IHL/NCD accredited: x; 
SAA[1,2]: IHL/NCD non-accredited: x; 
SAA[1,2]: Apprentice-ship: x; 
SAA[1,2]: On the job training: x; 
Education[3]: Education's certification: x; 
Education[3]: Federal Standards for accrediting agencies: [Empty]; 
Education[3]: Connecticut state licensing agency: x; 
Labor: Apprenticeship: x. 

Source: GAO analysis of VA, Education, and Labor Standards: 

Notes: GAO constructed these categories to encompass the numerous and 
broad range of standards used by agencies. SAAs have different sets of 
standards for each program type (e.g. IHL and NCD). Education's 
approval process involves different sets of standards used by different 
entities, such as accrediting agencies. Labor has one set of standards 
that is applicable to apprenticeship programs. 

[1] By statute, courses must meet certain criteria. These relate to: 
(1) record-keeping of student progress; (2) record-keeping of students' 
previous education; (3) quality, content and length of courses; (4) 
qualifications of administrators and instructors; and (5) equipment, 
space, and instructional materials. We categorized the first two 
criteria as student achievement, criteria (3) and (4) as Curricula, 
Program Objectives and Faculty, and criterion (5) as Institutional 
objectives, capacity, and administration. 2SAA approval requirements 
for non-accredited courses encompass a number of additional criteria, 
such as having a tuition refund policy and enrollment limitations. 
3Connecticut's standards may not be representative of standards across 
the country: 

[End of table] 

While agencies have the same approval standards in some instances, the 
interpretation and application of these standards may differ. For 
example, VA, accrediting agencies, and Labor each require that 
facilities have adequate space, equipment, and instructor personnel to 
provide quality training, but the definitions of adequacy differ in the 
level of specificity. Similarly, VA and accrediting agencies both 
require that schools have policies related to student achievement, such 
as minimum satisfactory grades, but the requirements differ in level of 
specificity. 

Despite the overlap in approved programs and standards, VA and SAAs 
have made limited efforts to coordinate approval activities with 
Education and Labor. VA reported that while it has coordinated with 
Education and Labor on issues related to student financial aid and 
apprentices' skill requirements, it believes increased coordination is 
needed for approval activities in order to determine the extent of 
duplicative efforts. Most of the SAA officials we spoke with reported 
that they have coordinated with SACs to register apprenticeship 
programs in their states. Labor reported that it coordinated with VA's 
national office in several instances, including providing a list of 
registered apprenticeship programs. Education reported that it does not 
have formalized coordination with VA but has had some contacts to 
inform VA of its concerns regarding specific institutions. 

Information is not available to determine the amount of resources spent 
on SAA duties and functions, including those that may overlap with 
those of other agencies. VA does not require SAAs to collect 
information on the amount of resources they spend on specific approval 
activities. The SAA officials we spoke with said that their most time- 
consuming activity is conducting inspection and supervisory visits of 
schools and training facilities. However, the lack of data on resource 
allocation prevented us from determining what portions of funds spent 
by SAAs were for approval activities that may overlap with those of 
other agencies. 

SAAs Reportedly Add Value to the Approval Process for Education and 
Training Programs, but the Lack of Outcome-Oriented Performance 
Measures Makes It Difficult to Assess the Significance of Their 
Efforts: 

SAA and other officials reported that SAA activities add value because 
they provide enhanced services to veterans and ensure program 
integrity. According to these officials, SAAs' added value includes a 
focus on student services for veterans and on VA benefits, more 
frequent on-site monitoring of education and training programs than 
Education and Labor, and assessments and approval of a small number of 
programs that are not reviewed by other agencies, such as programs 
offered by unaccredited schools, on-the-job training programs, and 
apprenticeship programs not approved by Labor. 

SAA approval activities reportedly ensure that (1) veterans are taking 
courses consistent with occupational goals and program requirements, 
(2) schools and training programs have evaluated prior learning and 
work experience and grant credit as appropriate, and (3) school or 
program officials know how to complete paperwork and comply with 
policies required by VA educational assistance through technical 
assistance. According to officials we interviewed, SAAs generally 
conduct more frequent on-site monitoring of education and training 
programs than Education or Labor, possibly preventing fraud, waste, and 
abuse. Some officials reported that SAAs' frequent visits were 
beneficial because they ensure that schools properly certify veterans 
for benefits and that benefits are distributed accurately and quickly. 
States, schools, and apprenticeship officials we spoke with reported 
that without SAAs, the quality of education for veterans would not 
change. However, veterans' receipt of benefits could be delayed and the 
time required to complete their education and training programs could 
increase. 

Despite areas of apparent added value, it is difficult to fully assess 
the significance of SAA efforts. VA does measure some outputs, such as 
the number of supervisory visits SAAs conduct, but it does not have 
outcome-oriented measures, such as the amount of benefit adjustments 
resulting from SAAs' review of school certification transactions, to 
evaluate the overall effectiveness and progress of SAAs. (See table 3.) 

Table 3: Examples of VA Output Measures and Potential Outcome Measures: 

Examples of Existing VA output Measures: Percentage of visits to 
facilities for supervisory and inspection purposes completed within VA 
specified timeframes; 
Examples of Potential Outcome Measures: Amount of benefit adjustments 
resulting from SAAs' review of school certification transactions. 

Examples of Existing VA output Measures: Number of times technical 
assistance provided to interested parties such as individuals and 
schools; 
Examples of Potential Outcome Measures: Error rate of certification 
transactions identified by SAAs. 

Examples of Existing VA output Measures: Number of approved facilities 
with approved programs; 
Examples of Potential Outcome Measures: Completion rates of 
beneficiaries. 

Source: GAO analysis. 

[End of table] 

Prior Recommendations and Agency Response: 

We made several recommendations to the Department of Veterans Affairs 
to help ensure that federal dollars are spent efficiently and 
effectively. We recommended that the Secretary of the Department of 
Veterans Affairs take steps to monitor its spending and identify 
whether any resources are spent on activities that duplicate the 
efforts of other agencies. The extent of these actions should be in 
proportion to the total resources of the program. Specifically: 

* VA should require SAAs to track and report data on resources spent on 
approval activities such as site visits, catalog review, and outreach 
in a cost-efficient manner, and: 

* VA should collaborate with other agencies to identify any duplicative 
efforts and use the agency's administrative and regulatory authority to 
streamline the approval process. 

In addition, we recommended that the Secretary of the Department of 
Veterans Affairs establish outcome-oriented performance measures to 
assess the effectiveness of SAA efforts. 

VA agreed with the findings and recommendations and stated that it will 
(1) establish a working group with the SAAs to create a reporting 
system to track and report data for approval activities with a goal of 
implementation in fiscal year 2008, (2) initiate contact with 
appropriate officials at the Departments of Education and Labor to 
identify any duplicative efforts, and (3) establish a working group 
with the SAAs to develop outcome-oriented performance measures with a 
goal of implementation in fiscal year 2008. While VA stated that it 
will initiate contact with officials at Education and Labor to identify 
duplicative efforts, it also noted that amending its administrative and 
regulatory authority to streamline the approval process may be 
difficult due to specific approval requirements of the law. We 
acknowledge these challenges and continue to believe that collaboration 
with other federal agencies could help VA reduce duplicative efforts. 
We also noted that VA may wish to examine and propose legislative 
changes needed to further streamline its approval process. 

Madame Chairwoman, this completes my prepared statement. I would be 
happy to respond to any questions that you or other members of the 
subcommittee may have. 

GAO Contacts: 

For further information regarding this testimony, please contact me at 
(202) 512-7215. Individuals making key contributions to this testimony 
include Heather McCallum Hahn, Andrea Sykes, Kris Nguyen, Jacqueline 
Harpp, Cheri Harrington, Lara Laufer, and Susannah Compton. 

FOOTNOTES 

[1] GAO, VA Student Financial Aid: Management Actions Needed to Reduce 
Overlap in Approving Education and Training Programs and to Assess 
State Approving Agencies, GAO-07-384 (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 8, 2007). 

[2] GAO, VA Student Financial Aid: Opportunity to Reduce Overlap in 
Approving Education and Training Programs, GAO/HEHS-96-22 (Washington, 
D.C.: Oct. 30, 1995). 

[3] Veterans Benefits and Health Care Improvement Act of 2000, Pub. L. 
No. 106-419 (2000); and Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act 
of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-103 (2001).

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