Veterans' Employment and Training Service:

Greater Accountability and Other Labor Actions Needed to Better Serve Veterans

GAO-06-357T: Published: Feb 2, 2006. Publicly Released: Feb 2, 2006.

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Sigurd R. Nilsen
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The number of service members leaving active duty is likely to increase by 200,000 yearly, according to the Department of Labor. To improve employment and training services for veterans and to encourage employers to hire them, Congress passed the Jobs for Veterans Act in 2002, which reformed Labor's Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program (DVOP) and Local Veterans' Employment Representative (LVER) program. This testimony summarizes GAO's recent review of progress implementing the act, including the development of new staff roles and responsibilities, incentive awards, and performance accountability system. GAO examined (1) actions taken to improve performance and accountability since the law's enactment and any associated challenges, (2) whether available data indicate that such action has resulted in improved employment outcomes for veterans, and (3) factors affecting program oversight an accountability.

Labor implemented most reforms under the Jobs for Veterans' Act (JVA) to improve the DVOP and LVER programs within the first 2 years of its enactment. However, it has not yet fully implemented measures to improve state accountability for these programs. Specifically, Labor reports that states will not be held accountable to the same standard for veterans' employment until 2007. States also report substantial progress implementing the law, but integrating veterans' staff with other one-stop staff remains challenging in some local areas. In addition, about one-third of the states did not establish incentive programs for their workforce personnel because state laws, policies, or agreements conflict with this JVA provision. Most state workforce administrators surveyed reported that the new legislation has improved both the quality of services to veterans and their employment outcomes. For example, they reported that services provided to disabled veterans have improved. They also credited the greater availability of case management and outreach to new employers for much of the improvement in employment outcomes under JVA. Aside from the law's influence, state administrators cited the willingness of employers to hire veterans and the strength of the local job market as significant factors affecting veterans' employment. About half of state directors of Veterans' Employment and Training reported their new monitoring role had strengthened local program accountability. However, just over a third reported that accountability had either lessened or not improved. Some partly attributed this to absence of local performance data and fewer annual visits to one-stop centers. GAO found, as well, that a lack of coordination among Labor's agencies responsible for certain JVA provisions has weakened accountability. Also, while Labor has developed a system to monitor program performance, it lacks a strategy for using the information it gathers to make improvements and to help states.

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