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entitled 'VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program: GAO 
Comments on Key Task Force Findings and Recommendations' which was 
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United States General Accounting Office: 


Report to the Ranking Democratic Member, Committee on Veterans’ 
Affairs, House of Representatives: 


GAO Comments on Key Task Force Findings and Recommendations: 
June 2004:




Appendix I: Briefing Slides:

Related GAO Products:


C&P: Compensation and Pension: 
DOD: Department of Defense: 
DOL: Department of Labor: 
IT: information technology: 
VA: Department of Veterans Affairs:  
VBA: Veterans Benefits Administration: 
VHA: Veterans Health Administration:  
VR&E: Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment:

United States General Accounting Office:

Washington, DC 20548:

June 15, 2004:

The Honorable Lane Evans:
Ranking Democratic Member: 
Committee on Veterans' Affairs: 
House of Representatives:

Dear Mr. Evans:

This report responds to your request for an analysis of the findings 
and recommendations contained in the March 2004 report of the 
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Task Force on Vocational 
Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E).[Footnote 1] You requested this 
work as part of our ongoing review of VA's VR&E program. The mission of 
the VR&E program is to provide comprehensive services and assistance 
necessary to enable veterans with service-connected disabilities and 
employment handicaps to become employable, then obtain and maintain 
stable and suitable employment.

We agreed to review and comment on the Task Force report's key findings 
and recommendations and make general observations about these findings 
and recommendations in light of our previous and ongoing work in the 
area. To meet these objectives, we attended Task Force public fact-
finding sessions, interviewed the Task Force chairman and VR&E central 
and regional office staff, and reviewed and analyzed Task Force report 
findings and recommendations. We conducted our work in accordance with 
generally accepted government auditing standards.

On May 27, 2004, we briefed your office on the results of our work. 
This report formally conveys the information provided during that 
briefing. Appendix I contains the briefing slides.

In summary, we generally agree with the Task Force's three key 
findings. We agree that VR&E has not been a Veterans Benefits 
Administration (VBA) priority in terms of returning veterans with 
service-connected disabilities to the workforce. GAO has reported that 
the VR&E program emphasized education and not employment, and we have 
recommended that VBA focus on obtaining suitable employment for 
disabled veterans. Although we have not specifically reviewed VR&E's 
capacity to manage its workload, we agree that many of the VR&E 
management systems identified by the Task Force as needing improvement 
are fundamental to the proper functioning of all federal programs. 
Finally, we agree that the VR&E program needs to be modernized. We have 
reported that VA uses outmoded criteria for establishing disability 
ratings, which are used to determine who is eligible for VR&E. 
Furthermore, we have designated VA disability programs as high risk in 
part because they use these outmoded criteria for determining 

Regarding the Task Force recommendations, we observed that disabled 
veterans might continue to use the program for education in the absence 
of an equally beneficial alternative, even if VR&E adds employment 
tracks to reflect veterans' diverse employment-related needs. 
Furthermore, implementing the Task Force recommendations will be a 
major challenge for VBA:

* Some recommended changes may require assistance from other agencies, 
such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Labor.

* Other recommendations, such as changes to eligibility determination, 
may require legislative changes.

* The large number of near-term recommendations will require 
prioritizing to determine what can be done within the existing budget.

In providing oral comments on a draft of the briefing, VA generally 
concurred with our comments and observations.

We are sending copies of this report to the Honorable 
Christopher H. Smith, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, 
and the Honorable Anthony J. Principi, Secretary of Veterans Affairs. 
We will also make copies available to others upon request.

If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please 
contact me on (202) 512-7101 or Irene Chu, Assistant Director, 
Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues, on (202) 512-7102. 
Margaret Boeckmann, Connie Peebles Barrow, and Joseph J. Natalicchio 
also made key contributions to this report.

Sincerely yours,

Signed by: 

Cynthia A. Bascetta: 
Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues:

[End of section]

Appendix I: Briefing Slides:

[See PDF for image]

[End of slide presentation]

[End of section]

Related GAO Products:

VA Benefits: Fundamental Changes to VA's Disability Criteria Need 
Careful Consideration. GAO-03-1172T. Washington, D.C.: 
September 23, 2003.

High-Risk Series: An Update. GAO-03-119. Washington, D.C.: 
January 2003.

Major Management Challenges and Program Risks: Department of Veterans 
Affairs. GAO-03-110. Washington, D.C.: January 2003.

SSA and VA Disability Programs: Re-Examination of Disability Criteria 
Needed to Help Ensure Program Integrity. GAO-02-597. Washington, D.C.: 
August 9, 2002.

Vocational Rehabilitation: Opportunities to Improve Program 
Effectiveness. GAO/T-HEHS-98-87. Washington, D.C.: February 4, 1998.

Veterans Benefits Administration: Focusing on Results in Vocational 
Rehabilitation and Education Programs. GAO/T-HEHS-97-148. Washington, 
D.C.: June 5, 1997.

Vocational Rehabilitation: VA Continues to Place Few Disabled Veterans 
in Jobs. GAO/HEHS-96-155. Washington, D.C.: September 3, 1996.

Vocational Rehabilitation: Better VA Management Needed to Help Disabled 
Veterans Find Jobs. GAO/HRD-92-100. Washington, D.C.: September 4, 

VA Can Provide More Employment Assistance to Veterans Who Complete Its 
Vocational Rehabilitation Program. GAO/HRD-84-39. Washington, D.C.: 
May 23, 1984.


[1] Department of Veterans Affairs. Report to the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs: The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program for the 
21st Century Veteran (Washington, DC: March 2004). 

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