Veterans' Employment and Training Service:

Labor Could Improve Information on Reemployment Services, Outcomes, and Program Impact

GAO-07-594: Published: May 24, 2007. Publicly Released: May 24, 2007.

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In 2002, Congress enacted the Jobs for Veterans Act (JVA), which modified two Department of Labor (Labor) programs that specifically target veteran job seekers: the Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program (DVOP) and the Local Veterans' Employment Representative (LVER) program. However, questions have been raised about the adequacy of performance information on services to veterans by these and other employment programs. In this report, GAO examined (1) the extent to which DVOP and LVER performance information reflects services and outcomes for veterans; (2) the extent to which performance information on veterans paints a clear picture of their use of one-stop services; and (3) what Labor is doing to improve the quality of performance data and better understand program impact and outcomes for veterans.

Performance information for the DVOP and LVER programs provides some sense of services and outcomes for veterans, but is weakened by several factors. In July 2005, Labor adopted new performance measures for the programs, but not all have been fully implemented. For example, states are held accountable for helping veterans get and keep jobs, but are not yet held accountable for their average earnings once employed, as they are for other programs. Additionally, having separate performance measures for the DVOP and LVER programs fails to acknowledge the similarity of the populations they serve and duties they perform. Furthermore, it is difficult to assess outcomes over time or across states because of frequent changes in reporting requirements that prevent establishing reliable trend data. Labor's data on veteran job seekers paint an unclear picture of their use of other employment and training services in the one-stop system, despite the use of common performance measures across programs. Although many veterans use services other than those provided by the DVOP and LVER programs, key employment programs vary in how well their data on veteran job seekers are shared across programs, making it difficult to know how many veterans are served. In addition, statutory differences in the definitions of veterans hinder efforts to standardize data across employment programs. Moreover, Labor has no means of assessing whether priority of service for veterans has been implemented in various employment programs. Labor has taken some steps to improve the quality of performance data and better understand outcomes for veterans. For example, Labor requires states to validate key performance data. Labor has also planned an integrated data reporting system that would track individual veterans' progress through the one-stop system. However, states have raised concerns about the timelines and its current implementation date is unclear. Furthermore, while outcome information on veterans is helpful, it cannot measure whether the outcomes are due to the program or other factors. While Labor has sponsored research on services to veterans, it has not yet conducted the impact evaluation required by law to assess the effectiveness of one-stop services.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Since publication of this report, DOL has taken several steps toward standardizing the definition of veteran that applies to workforce programs. The first step was taken in December 2008, when DOL published a Final Rule on Priority of Service. The Rule established that the definition of veteran appearing at 38 U.S.C. 101(2) applies to all workforce programs for the purposes of priority of service. This definition of veteran is functionally equivalent to the definition of veteran that was enacted, in somewhat different language, by the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998, and which is codified at 29 U.S.C. 2801(49)(A). The Title 38 definition of veteran that was adopted by the Final Rule on Priority of Service has the advantage of appearing in the definitions section of the Title of the U.S. Code that governs veterans' employment. The second step toward standardization also occurred in conjunction with publication of the Final Rule on priority of service. Specifically, the Information Collection Request that was approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), as a companion to the Final Rule, specified that the definition of veteran established by the Final Rule is to be applied to the data collection and reporting for all qualified job training programs. This is to take place as the reporting systems for these programs undergo their periodic reviews for renewal of OMB approval. The third step toward standardization took place in the course of consultations between DOL staff and Congressional staff about provisions to be considered for inclusion in WIA reauthorization. As part of those consultations, DOL recommended that Congress enact a provision that, for WIA purposes, would define veteran by referencing the Title 38 definition applied for priority of service. If enacted, that step would also avert the need to enact a conforming amendment of WIA, if the Title 38 definition were to be revised.

    Recommendation: To provide a better picture of services and outcomes for veteran job seekers, improve program reporting, and facilitate priority of service, the Secretary of Labor should develop legislative proposals for appropriate changes to the definitions of veterans across employment and training programs to ensure consistency.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VETS has applied a weighted measure to the DVOP and LVER programs for PY 2008, PY 2009 and PY 2010. For PY 2008, the application of the weighted measure was initiated by the issuance of VPL 05-08. For PY 2009, the application of the same weighted measure was maintained by the issuance of VPL 04-09, and for PY 2010, this practice was extended for a third year by the issuance of VPL 08-10. For PY 2011, VETS intends to actively consider revising the current approach to weighted measurement. Since PY 2008, the consolidated Entered Employment Rate has been applied on a weighted basis to all veterans served by DVOP specialists and/or LVER staff. The weighted version of the consolidated Entered Employment Rate gives higher credit for veterans who enter employment after receiving intensive services.

    Recommendation: To provide a better picture of services and outcomes for veteran job seekers, improve program reporting, and facilitate priority of service, the Secretary of Labor should comply with JVA's requirement to implement a weighting system for the DVOP and LVER performance measures that takes into account the difficulty of serving veterans with particular barriers to employment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to this recommendation, VETS has applied consolidated measures to the DVOP and LVER programs for PY 2008, PY 2009 and PY 2010. For PY 2008, the application of three consolidated measures was initiated by the issuance of Veterans' Program Letter (VPL) 05-08. For PY 2009, application of the same three consolidated measures was maintained by the issuance of VPL 04-09, and for PY 2010, this practice was extended for a third year by the issuance of VPL 08-10. For PY 2011, VETS intends to actively consider revisions to the three current consolidated measures. Since PY 2008, the Entered Employment Rate, Employment Retention Rate and Average Earnings level have been applied on a consolidated basis to all veterans served by DVOP specialists and/or LVER staff. During that time, the consolidated Entered Employment Rate also has been weighted by providing higher credit for those veterans who enter employment after receiving intensive services. In conjunction with application of the three consolidated measures, VETS has separately applied the Entered Employment Rate and Employment Retention Rate to those disabled veterans who are served by DVOP specialists, and also has separately applied the same two measures to those recently separately veterans served by LVER staff. In light of the clear differences established in statute between the roles and responsibilities of DVOP specialists and LVER staff, VETS has concluded that it is essential to continue to measure the distinctive as well as the common achievements of these two programs. VETS anticipates that the current separate measures for DVOP specialists and LVER staff will be eliminated for PY 2011. However, VETS also anticipates that alternative separate measures will be developed and applied to better capture the outcomes that result from the statutory distinctions in the duties of DVOP specialists and LVER staff.

    Recommendation: To provide a better picture of services and outcomes for veteran job seekers, improve program reporting, and facilitate priority of service, the Secretary of Labor should consolidate all performance measures for the DVOP and LVER programs, including those for disabled and recently separated veterans.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The proposed Workforce Investment Streamlined Performance Reporting System (WISPR) system, which would have streamlined performance reporting for the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Title I, Wagner-Peyser Act, and the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act, has not been implemented. The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) report they will provide sufficient time and direction to states and grantees in implementing any new performance reporting system. Any changes to performance reporting will take into consideration a reauthorized WIA, the changes already implemented for the Trade program, and collection requirements authorized for Veterans' Priority of Service.

    Recommendation: To provide a better picture of services and outcomes for veteran job seekers, improve program reporting, and facilitate priority of service, the Secretary of Labor should ensure that states are given adequate direction and sufficient time to implement the Employment and Training Administration's planned integrated data reporting system and make necessary changes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Labor reports that the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Gold Standard Evaluation has not been completed. The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) anticipates delivery of a final report in late 2016. The department reports that, because veterans are to receive priority in workforce preparation programs, veterans will not be randomly assigned under the Gold Standard Evaluation. To allow for some descriptive analysis on services for veterans, ETA plans to collect more information through both its implementation study and WIA Standard Reporting Data on the use of veterans priority, available services, and any issues in serving veterans. However, because neither the implementation study nor the WIA Standard Reporting Data changes have been completed, this recommendation will be closed as not implemented.

    Recommendation: To provide a better picture of services and outcomes for veteran job seekers, improve program reporting, and facilitate priority of service, the Secretary of Labor should ensure that Labor moves forward with an impact evaluation for the one-stop system under the Workforce Investment Act as we recommended in 2004, and that the evaluation's sampling methodology includes veterans in sufficient numbers to allow analysis of the impact of services to veterans in the one-stop system, including those served by the DVOP and LVER programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

 

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