Posthearing Questions Related to Federal Agencies' Activities regarding the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
GAO-08-397R, Jan 9, 2008
- Accessible Text:
On November 8, 2007, GAO testified before the committee at a hearing entitled "Protecting the Employment Rights of Those Who Protect the United States." This letter responds to the Congressional request that I provide answers to questions for the record. The questions are as follows: (1) Why are the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) claims taking so long to resolve at The Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Office of the Special Council (OSC)? (2) What can each of the agencies do to make this process more efficient and effective for veterans? (3) Is the system as it stands today, ready and able to handle a possible increase in USERRA claims? (4) How can the agencies work proactively to prevent the need for USERRA claims in the future? And (5) Will this new initiative fully address the data concerns GAO raised so that Congress has a more complete picture of the types of USERRA claims being filed?
As cited in the testimony, our analysis of the 52 cases that were opened and closed two or more times showed that the processing time captured in DOL's database averaged 3 to 4 months, but the total elapsed times servicemembers waited to have their complaints fully addressed averaged about 20 to 21 months from the time they filed their initial formal complaints with DOL until they were fully addressed by by DOL, the Department of Justice (DOJ), or the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). The overall point being made in our testimony was that it was taking much longer for these cases to be resolved than the database was capturing. We did not perform an overall analysis of processing time to determine the average length of time it took to resolve all formal complaints filed during that time period. For those complaints referred to OSC during the period February 8, 2005, through September 30, 2006, we found that it took an average of 247 days or about 8 months before DOL sent the complaint to OSC. DOL uses the same process for nonfederal complaints, which are referred by DOL to DOJ, but we have not conducted a similar analysis of those complaints. We have made a number of recommendations to DOD, DOL, DOJ, and OSC to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their USERRA complaint processes. The agencies have generally been responsive to our recommendations. USERRA provides both informal and formal assistance to servicemembers. Our past work reviewed the types and extent of assistance but did not address the adequacy of resources to handle any potential increase in USERRA complaints. Under the current system, servicemembers who have USERRA-related issues with their employers can file informal complaints with DOD's ESGR. DOD and DOL have taken steps to conduct outreach efforts to educate servicemembers and employers about their respective responsibilities under USERRA. When implemented, the common data fields will allow analyses to be conducted that will provide Congress with a more comprehensive picture of the types of claims being filed. According to DOD and DOL officials, DOD's ESGR and DOL developed a USERRA issue crosswalk between ESGR problem codes and DOL's USERRA Information Management System (UIMS) issue codes.