Vocational Rehabilitation:

Opportunities to Improve Program Effectiveness

T-HEHS-98-87: Published: Feb 4, 1998. Publicly Released: Feb 4, 1998.

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Stephen P. Backhus
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GAO reviewed the past problems that the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has faced and the progress it has made in helping disabled veterans obtain suitable employment.

GAO noted that: (1) the vocational rehabilitation program has not emphasized its mandate to find jobs for disabled veterans; (2) in 1984, 1992, and again in 1996, GAO reported that the vocational rehabilitation program primarily focused on sending veterans to training, not on finding veterans suitable employment; (3) for example, GAO found that VBA placed over 90 percent of eligible veterans directly into training programs, while less than 5 percent went directly into the program phase designed to find them jobs; (4) VBA program officials stated that staff focused on providing training services because, among other reasons, the staff lacked adequate training and expertise in job placement; (5) similarly, GAO found that VBA placed few veterans in jobs; (6) for example, GAO reported in 1992 and 1996 that VBA rehabilitated less than 10 percent of veterans found eligible for vocational rehabilitation services; (7) VBA program officials stated that the primary reason for the low percentage of rehabilitations was the lack of focus on providing employment services; (8) furthermore, GAO found that VBA has not focused on assessing program effectiveness; (9) VBA's vocational rehabilitation and counseling service established a design team in 1995 to radically restructure the program; (10) in 1996, the design team made specific recommendations aimed at improving program effectiveness; (11) during recent discussions with program officials, GAO found that VBA is in the early stages of implementing the design team's recommendations; and (12) program officials stated that they are currently developing a strategic plan that they believe will address prior recommendations and set forth a plan of action for improving program effectiveness.

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