Veterans' Employment and Training Service:

Flexibility and Accountability Needed to Improve Service to Veterans

GAO-01-928: Published: Sep 12, 2001. Publicly Released: Oct 2, 2001.

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Recognizing that the country's fragmented employment and training programs were not serving job seekers or employers well, Congress enacted the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) in 1988. One of WIA's goals was to create a one-stop center system to help unify the services provided by many programs and give states the flexibility to design services better suited to local workforce needs. Veterans' employment and training programs, administered by the Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS), are mandatory program partners in this new one-stop center system. VETS administers two grants programs--the Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program (DVOP) and the Local Veterans' Employment Representative (LVER) program--that fund staff offering services for veterans. Although veterans receive priority employment services at one-stop centers, VETS does not collect appropriate data for determining the effectiveness of these services, including subsequent job retention and wages. VETS requires states to collect information on the number and type of employment services provided to veterans relative to nonveterans. This information showed that veterans received more intensive services, and received these services more readily, than did nonveterans seeking services through states' employment service offices or one-stop centers--an elevated level of service principally provided by DVOP and LVER staff. VETS' oversight of the DVOP and LVER grants is inadequate. The agency lacks a comprehensive system in place to manage state performance in serving veterans. The two programs do not always operate well within the one-stop center environment because states do not have the flexibility to design their services for veterans in a way that best meets the needs of employers and veterans. The success of the one-stop system depends on providing services that meet the changing employment needs in local communities. GAO summarized this report in testimony before Congress; see: Veterans' Employment and Training Service: Greater Flexibility and Accountability Needed to Better Serve Veterans, by Sigurd R. Nilsen, Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues, before the Subcommittee on Benefits, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. GAO-02-192T, Oct. 30 (13 pages).

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Senate and House of Representatives passed Public Law 107-288 on November 7, 2002, which provided more flexibility in the placement of Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program and Local Veterans' Employment Representative staff.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider revising title 38 to provide states and local offices more discretion to decide where to locate DVOP and LVER staff and provide states the discretion to have half-time DVOP positions.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Senate and House of Representatives passed Public Law 107-288 on November 7, 2002, which revised the duties of staff serving veterans and gave more flexibility to states and the Secretary of Labor for determining the roles and responsibilities for these staff.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider revising title 38 to allow VETS and states the flexibility to better define the roles and responsibilities of staff serving veterans instead of including these duties in the law.

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Senate and House of Representatives passed Public Law 107-288 on November 7, 2002, which provided more flexibility to the Department of Labor for the administration and oversight of the staffing grants.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider revising title 38 to provide VETS with the flexibility to consider alternative ways to improve administration and oversight of the staffing grants, for example, eliminating the prescriptive requirements for monitoring DVOP and LVER grants.

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation has been implemented. VETS no longer includes a comparison of the job placement rate of veterans with that of nonveterans in its performance measures.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider revising title 38 to eliminate the requirement that VETS report to Congress a comparison of the job placement rate of veterans with that of nonveterans.

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation has been implemented. VETS has eliminated the number of veterans obtaining jobs from federal contractors from its performance measures; the agency no longer reports on federal contractor job listings.

    Matter: Congress should consider revising title 38 to eliminate the requirement that VETS report on Federal Contractor Job Listings.

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: While there are still two grant programs, the Senate and House of Representatives passed Public Law 107-288 on November 7, 2002, which merged the two separate funding streams for Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program and Local Veterans' Employment Representative grant programs into one funding stream.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider revising title 38 to combine the DVOP and LVER programs into one staffing grant to better meet states' needs for serving veterans.

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress considered this matter and discussed the availability of additional funds to change the grant funding cycle to be consistent with other employment and training programs. The discussion focused on the need to ensure that funds would be available for the additional 3 months it would take to go from a fiscal year to a program year (starting July 1).

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider making the DVOP and LVER grant funding cycle consistent with that of other employment and training programs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VETS now has three performance measures and allows states the flexibility to present a plan for how they expect to meet these goals (based on unemployment rates in the area).

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should establish more effective management and monitoring of the DVOP and LVER programs and direct VETS to specify performance goals and expectations for serving veterans and allowing states the flexibility to present a plan for how they intend to meet these goals and expectations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor: Veterans Employment and Training Service

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VETS now requires states to have goals and expectations for serving veterans that are consistent with those under WIA. For information about serving veterans, states will use the same data collection system used under WIA.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should establish more effective management and monitoring of the DVOP and LVER programs and direct VETS to implement, as soon as possible, a performance measurement system that holds states accountable, reflects the agency's goals and expectations, and defines how the performance data should be collected to ensure accuracy and reliability.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor: Veterans Employment and Training Service

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VETS has more flexibility in its oversight of the Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program and Local Veterans' Employment Representative grant programs. For example, it is not required to review all local offices on an annual basis, but can conduct oversight on a more selective basis. Public Law 107-288 also implemented a small incentive for meeting goals--states can take 1 percent of their funding to award local offices or staff. There are also nonmonetary incentives described in the law.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should establish more effective management and monitoring of the DVOP and LVER programs and direct VETS to implement a performance management system for the state grantees that provides incentives for meeting goals and penalties, beyond corrective action plans, for not meeting goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor: Veterans Employment and Training Service

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to VETS officials, they have increased training efforts. The NVTI curriculum was restructured, and VETS improved outreach to DVOP and LVER staff and increased training of headquarters staff. VETS recognized that NVTI training needed to change. More classes were needed as well as a new delivery method. For example, VETS recognized that it needed a grants management course and developed a course offered partly over the Internet, as well as some follow-up course work at NVTI. The class focused on how to administer and monitor a grant. VETS is offering more on-line classes over the Internet for DVOP and LVER staff because this is a more cost-effective way to train many people quickly. For example, VETS has performed the same amount of training in 2002 as it did in 2001, however, the training has cost 54 percent less in 2002 than it did in 2001, partly due to use of the Internet. In May 2002, a one-week national conference was held to train DVET and RVET staff on the new philosophy, direction, and management style of VETS. Training was also held on the new proposed performance measures and the new process for holding local offices accountable for service to veterans. At this conference, workshops were held to gather the input of DVET and RVET staff on the old and new system to make sure the new system would be successful. VETS officials acknowledge that it will be a slow process to totally change the agency, but they believe that they have made an initial start. The Assistant Secretary has made it a priority to visit every state to assess service to veterans. To date, he has been to a third of the states in all but one region. When the Assistant Secretary goes to a state, he meets with the DVET, some workforce investment boards, and between one and three local offices to have meetings with DVOP and LVER staff and to observe the delivery of services to veterans. RVETS are also performing more state site visits. Since the local employment service office evaluation is no longer performed, VETS is using this money to fund more RVET state visits in an effort to increase technical assistance. Communication VETS has increased its communication and guidance to DVETS and now requires that DVET staff inform state officials about any policy changes or requests. While VETS recognizes that the DVET needs to have access to the DVOP and LVER staff, the DVETS can no longer communicate with the DVOP and LVER staff to the exclusion of state officials. VETS recognizes that DVOP and LVER staff are state employees, not federal employees, and is working to simplify its lines of authority.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should establish more effective management and monitoring of the DVOP and LVER programs and direct VETS to update oversight guidelines and improving staff training to ensure consistent monitoring of DVOP and LVER programs in one-stop centers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor: Veterans Employment and Training Service

 

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