Vocational Rehabilitation:

VA Continues to Place Few Disabled Veterans in Jobs

HEHS-96-155: Published: Sep 3, 1996. Publicly Released: Oct 3, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) vocational rehabilitation program, focusing on: (1) the percentage of rehabilitated veterans; (2) the services provided; (3) the characteristics of clients served; (4) the cost of rehabilitation; and (5) VA efforts to improve program effectiveness.

GAO found that: (1) despite the 1980 legislation requiring VA to focus its rehabilitation program on finding disabled veterans suitable employment and subsequent GAO reports recommending that VA implement this legislation, VA continues to place few veterans in jobs; (2) VA officials told GAO that the percentage of veterans classified as rehabilitated is low because the program does not focus on providing employment services; (3) instead, VA continues primarily to send veterans to training, particularly to higher education programs; (4) GAO's analysis of national program data showed that the characteristics of program participants are changing and that VA does not have readily available cost data associated with providing rehabilitation services to individual veterans; (5) GAO's review of over 100 case files, however, showed that VA spent, on average, about $20,000 on each veteran who gained employment and about $10,000 on each veteran who dropped out of the program; (6) generally, over half of the total costs of rehabilitation services consisted of payments to assist veterans in covering their basic living expenses; (7) with regard to Education's state vocational rehabilitation program, GAO's analysis of national program data showed that over the last 5 years (1991-1995) state agencies rehabilitated 37 percent of the approximately 2.6 million individuals eligible for vocational rehabilitation program services, while about 31 percent continued to receive program services; (8) the state agencies provide a wide range of rehabilitative services, from physical restoration and transportation to college education and on-the-job training; (9) in addition, a majority of the program participants had severe disabilities; (10) moreover, national program data showed that state vocational rehabilitation agencies spent, on average, about $3,000 on each client who achieved employment and about $2,000 on each client who dropped out of the program; (11) the state program does not provide funds to cover client living expenses; (12) in response to prior GAO and VA findings and recommendations, VA recently established a design team to identify ways of improving program effectiveness; (13) the team's overall objective is to increase the number of veterans who obtain suitable employment through improvements in program management; (14) the team is also looking at ways to improve staff skills in job finding and placement activities; and (15) VA hopes to begin implementing program changes in fiscal year 1997.

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