Key Issues > Supports and Services for Transitioning Veterans
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Supports and Services for Transitioning Veterans

After their service ends, many veterans face challenges when transitioning back to civilian life. The Department of Veterans Affairs and other federal agencies offer supports and services to facilitate this transition.

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With more veterans returning from service around the world, helping them overcome their transition challenges—such as unemployment, homelessness, mental health issues, and disability-related issues—is even more important. However, some of the supports and services that can help veterans during a time of transition have key weaknesses, thereby increasing the risk that some veterans will have difficulties adjusting to civilian life.   

For example:

  • Transition assistance:  Many veterans who served in the military after September 11, 2001, have successfully readjusted to civilian life with minimal difficulties in the first few years after they were discharged, others have experienced difficulties. While an array of VA benefits and services are available during a veteran's first few years out of the military, GAO has identified long-standing challenges with VA's delivery and management of this support. Also, VA and other federal agencies are re-vamping the Transition Assistance Program, which connects discharging servicemembers to available benefits and services. But these efforts have been hampered by limitations in how the agencies evaluate the program’s performance as well as challenges with effectively serving members of the Reserves and National Guard.   
  • Benefits processing: The average time for VA to process disability compensation claims rose to 260 days in 2012, partly because of delays in receiving medical records from other federal agencies and shortcomings of VA’s claims processing system. Processing times have also risen for the joint VA-Department of Defense system intended to expedite the delivery of benefits to injured servicemembers This system has faced staffing and logistical challenges.
  • Education and training: With regard to benefits available to the general veteran population for post-secondary education, VA has taken only limited steps to counsel veterans and protect them from schools which provide inaccurate information or pressure them to enroll. In addition, VA’s employment and training program targeted to veterans with disabilities faces persistent challenges with its performance measures and workload management.
  • Entrepreneurship: The VA’s preferential contracting program for small businesses owned by service-disabled and other veterans has been hampered by shortcomings in its strategic plan and data system.
  • Homelessness:  Data suggests the number of homeless women veterans has doubled in recent years, but VA lacks information on the characteristics and needs of this population.
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