Vocational Rehabilitation:

Better VA Management Needed to Help Disabled Veterans Find Jobs

HRD-92-100: Published: Sep 4, 1992. Publicly Released: Sep 4, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) vocational rehabilitation program, focusing on: (1) the program's effectiveness in helping disabled veterans obtain and maintain employment; (2) reasons for the high drop-out rate of veterans who apply for the program; and (3) VA standards for measuring program success and for providing timely services.

GAO found that VA: (1) focuses its program on training, although legislation requires that it also provide job placement services; (2) arrangements with other agencies that offer job search activities have produced only limited job search assistance; (3) does not know why 71 percent of the 202,000 veterans accepted into the rehabilitation program dropped out before obtaining suitable employment; (4) does not collect sufficient data or document drop-out reasons and has not made any special efforts to identify key reasons why veterans drop out of the rehabilitation program; and (5) has instituted a systematic approach to monitoring and assessing the program, but it is not very helpful, since it uses previous actual performance as the standard for the following year's performance, does not consider all program participants in measuring program effectiveness, and has not established standards in all necessary areas.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: During FY1998, a task force was created to study policies and procedures related to contracting for rehabilitation services. VBA's renamed Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Service used the study to develop a national acquisition strategy (NAS) with the goal of bringing greater consistency, effectiveness and efficiency to the vocational rehabilitation programs.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should implement the requirements of the 1980 amendments related to finding and maintaining suitable employment for disabled veterans.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VR&C partnered with DOL to expand and improve employment services for veterans who are job-ready. A cooperative training program for VR&C and DOL staffs was conducted in 1998 and 1999; additional joint training programs are planned for fiscal years 2000 and 2001. Both national and state cooperative agreements have been developed with state rehabilitation agencies for obtaining employment assistance from state agencies. VA believes that the soon-to-be-completed National Acquisition strategy, based on the work of a task force, will bring about "improved consistency, effectiveness and efficiency" in the job placement services provided by contractors.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should take the lead in developing more effective working arrangements with the Department of Labor (DOL), state rehabilitation agencies, and private contractors for providing job placement services to disabled veterans.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: During FY2000, VR&E conducted a customer survey, in which veterans provided reasons for withdrawing or interrupting their participation. The most common reasons were "primarily personal," such as medical problems, family responsibilities and difficulties, their disability, and financial hardships. VA also contracted with Booz-Allen & Hamilton to conduct a program outcomes study involving both veterans who successfully completed their vocational rehabilitation program and those who did not, as well as to compare VR&E program outcomes with those of similar programs for disabled and nondisabled persons. Booz-Allen concluded that "both demographic variables and veterans' attitudes influence program outcomes."

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should determine why so many disabled veterans drop out before successfully completing the vocational rehabilitation program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VR&E has begun several initiatives to reduce the attrition rate, such as: (1) improving veteran access to VR&E field staff through relocation of staff to veteran population centers and at military pre-discharge centers, providing additional office hours, and the use of teleconferencing; (2) a case management approach that focuses field staff's time on the veterans in need of the most help; and (3) involving employers at the beginning of a veteran's rehab program, thus aligning program services with needs of employers and focusing veterans on employment throughout their program.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should take action aimed at reducing the number of dropouts and increasing the number who are successfully rehabilitated.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A September 1999 VA memo notes that as part of the Veterans Benefits Administration's (VBA's) work to develop balanced scorecards to measure performance across its business lines, VR&C implemented performance measures and goals nationwide in October 1998. VR&C subsequently made some changes to the scorecard during the fiscal year, and will continue to do so. The memo states that scorecard data show improvements in the rehabilitation rate.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should review the performance standards established for the vocational rehabilitation program and determine whether services to the veterans can be improved by establishing a realistic performance measurement system, such as benchmarking, that clearly focuses on the program's objectives and continually measures progress toward achieving them.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs


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