Veterans Benefits Administration:

Better Collection and Analysis of Attrition Data Needed to Enhance Workforce Planning

GAO-03-491: Published: Apr 28, 2003. Publicly Released: May 8, 2003.

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Cynthia A. Bascetta
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By the year 2006, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) projects it will lose a significant portion of its mission-critical workforce to retirement. VBA has hired over 2,000 new employees to begin to fill this expected gap. GAO was asked to review: (1) the attrition rate at VBA, particularly for new employees who examine veterans' claims, and the agency's methods for calculating attrition; and (2) the adequacy of VBA's analysis of attrition data, including the reasons for attrition. To answer these questions, GAO analyzed attrition data from VBA's Office of Human Resources, calculated attrition rates for VBA and other federal agencies using a governmentwide database on federal employment, and interviewed VBA officials about their efforts to measure attrition and determine why new employees leave.

About 16 percent of new examiners hired in fiscal year 2001 left VBA within 12 months of their hiring date, more than double the 6 percent rate for all VBA employees who left that year. In general, new hire attrition tends to exceed the rate for all other employees, and VBA's 16 percent rate is similar to the attrition rate for all new federal employees hired in recent years, when as many as 17 percent left within 12 months of being hired. VBA does not have adequate data on the reasons why employees, particularly new employees, choose to leave the agency. VBA has descriptive data on whether employees leave the agency through resignation, termination, retirement, or transfer, but does not yet have comprehensive data on the reasons employees resign. While VBA collects some data on the reasons for attrition in exit interviews, these data are limited because exit interviews have not been conducted consistently, and the data from these interviews are not compiled and analyzed. Without such data, VBA cannot determine ways to address why employees are leaving. Furthermore, VBA has not performed analysis to determine whether it can reduce its staff attrition. Despite recent steps to improve the collection and analysis of data on the reasons for attrition, an overall strategy for the collection and analysis of attrition data could help guide workforce planning and determine the extent to which attrition and its costs could be reduced.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To ensure that VBA collects and analyzes information on the reasons for attrition, particularly for new employees, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Under Secretary for Benefits to develop a strategy for the systematic collection and analysis of attrition data. This could include the calculation of attrition rates, analysis of the reasons for leaving, and estimation of the costs associated with new hire attrition.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) reported in June 2003, that it had implemented electronic exit surveys, which would allow the systematic collection of attrition data and make it possible for VBA to systematically analyze the reasons for attrition. In addition, in May 2003, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) approved the use of an existing system as a primary source for VBA and other VA administrations to conduct human resources and workforce planning reports and analysis.

    Recommendation: The VBA should integrate the results of its attrition analysis into its workforce plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs: Veterans Benefits Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2005, the Veteran Benefits Administration issued its Workforce and Succession Plan for FY 2005-2008, which includes attrition analyses and associated action plans for various positions, including job series 996 for the veterans claims examiner position.

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