New Legislation and Stronger Program Management Needed To Improve Effectiveness of VA's Vocational Rehabilitation Program

HRD-80-47: Published: Feb 26, 1980. Publicly Released: Feb 29, 1980.

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The Veterans Administration (VA) vocational rehabilitation program was established to restore the employability of veterans whose employability has been lost because of a service-connected disability. Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the program to determine whether a revision of authorizing legislation would correct major program problems or whether other actions should be taken to improve the program's effectiveness.

The most important of several factors contributing the program's limited effectiveness was a lack of strong central management and accountability for program results at the central office level. No single organizational unit or individual had been given the authority and management responsibility for overall direction and control of the program. In addition, the objectives established by the central office, and the VA management information system, were geared to broad functions and processes that encompassed all VA programs, rather than focusing on a specific program's intended and actual results and outcomes. Other factors that limited the effectiveness of the program included financial disincentives caused by competition from other VA benefits; problems in program outreach and enrollment practices; and a lack of comprehensive rehabilitative services.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should: (1) amend the appropriate legislation to allow service-disabled veterans who need vocational rehabilitation services to enroll under the program with an option of two specified payment plans to correct the problem of service-disabled veterans choosing to enroll under the regular GI bill program instead of the veterans rehabilitation program solely for financial reasons; and (2) amend the appropriate legislation to expand the statutory purpose of vocational rehabilitation beyond employability to include attainment of gainful employment.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should revise the VA vocational rehabilitation program by: (1) adopting the current professional view that the primary purpose of vocational rehabilitation is to help the client become a satisfactory and satisfied employee; (2) considering a revision of VA regulations to emphasize the integrative use of diagnostic, medical, social, psychological, vocational, and other services needed to ensure maximum rehabilitation; (3) giving priority to veterans with serious employment handicaps; (4) establish a single unit at the central office level to manage the vocational rehabilitation program; (5) establish precise, results-oriented goals and objectives for the program; (6) revise the VA automated management information system to include routine collection and reporting of needed data; (7) develop and implement a comprehensive outreach plan of action to ensure that all service-disabled veterans are contacted and adequately informed of their potential eligibility for the program, with special emphasis on the more seriously disabled veterans; (8) implement the case manager concept at the regional office whereby one person is assigned to a veterans's case for the entire term of his participation and followup; (9) revise VA regulations to require that regional office rehabilitation personnel determine and document the nature and extent of lost employability for each veteran; and (10) revise VA regulations to require that all disabled veterans applying for a 100-percent individually unemployable rating be referred to the vocational rehabilitation unit for an evaluation of their rehabilitation and work potential before they are considered for the rating.

    Agency Affected:

 

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