Vocational Rehabilitation:

VA Needs to Emphasize Serving Veterans With Serious Employment Handicaps

HRD-92-133: Published: Sep 28, 1992. Publicly Released: Sep 28, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) vocational rehabilitation program, focusing on VA ability to provide required and special services.

GAO found that: (1) VA field offices failed to make additional personal contacts with seriously disabled veterans, as VA procedures require; (2) seriously disabled veterans receive the same mailed outreach information package as all disabled veterans; (3) physicians believe that rehabilitation programs benefit seriously disabled veterans and are a successful complement to overall rehabilitation; (4) reasons for the lack of personal contact include long waiting periods, the perception that the VA program is for training rather than placement, the use of other state services, increased demands by program participants, and unwillingness to prioritize based on veterans' disability ratings; (5) seriously handicapped veterans' appointments are handled on a first-come, first-serve basis, and many veterans fail to receive required priority initial counseling and evaluation appointments; (6) VA field offices believe priority scheduling should not be based on higher disability ratings; (7) VA measures productivity by the number of cases employees process, regardless of employment handicap; and (8) because productivity standards do not differentiate between case complexities, and severely handicapped individuals require more complex rehabilitation strategies, field offices may be reluctant to adequately service severely disabled veterans.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA is taking action by: (1) emphasizing outreach in monthly management periodicals; (2) exploring closer coordination between VA hospitals and vocational rehabilitation programs; and (3) monitoring activities to provide outreach services. Other actions being taken to give priority when scheduling initial counseling and evaluation appointments include: (1) emphasizing to field staff the need for prioritization if appointments cannot be scheduled within 21 days; (2) training in the need for prioritization in future inservice training programs; and (3) requiring that this area to be specifically examined in station surveys.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should reemphasize to VA field offices that disabled veterans with serious employment handicaps are to be: (1) provided special outreach services; and (2) given priority when scheduling initial counseling and evaluation appointments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA revised its Vocational Rehabilitation and Counseling Officer Performance Standards and issued a circular incorporating the revisions.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should recognize the additional time required to provide services to these veterans in the employee productivity standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

 

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