In fiscal year 2006, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) paid approximately $2.1 billion in education assistance benefits to more than 470,000 beneficiaries and about $19 million to state approving agencies (SAA) to assess whether schools and training programs offer education of sufficient quality for veterans to receive VA education assistance benefits when attending them. Qualified individuals--veterans, service persons, reservists, and certain spouses and dependents--receive benefits through a number of education assistance programs for the pursuit of various types of programs, such as a degree program, vocational program, apprenticeship, or on-the-job training. The Departments of Education (Education) and Labor (Labor) also assess education and training programs for various purposes, primarily for awarding student aid and providing apprenticeship assistance. In 2006, under Title IV of the Higher Education Act, Education provided nearly $77 billion in student aid in the form of both grants and loans. The Department of Education assesses and certifies postsecondary institutions for participation in Title IV programs through various oversight functions to ensure that these schools meet federal administrative and financial requirements and that they are accredited and licensed. Similarly, under the National Apprenticeship Act of 1937, the Department of Labor is authorized to formulate and promote the furtherance of labor standards to safeguard the welfare of apprentices. Given each agency's role, the potential of duplicative efforts among federal agencies has been a congressional concern. In 1995, GAO reported on this matter and concluded that there was a substantial amount of overlap between the efforts of SAAs and the other federal agencies. In light of continued congressional interest in this issue, we have now answered the following questions: (1) What changes have occurred in state approving agencies' duties and functions since 1995? (2) To what extent does the SAA approval process overlap with efforts by the Departments of Education and Labor? (3) What, if any, additional value do the SAA approval activities bring to VA education benefit programs?
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Veterans Affairs||To help ensure that federal dollars are spent efficiently and effectively, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs should take steps to monitor SAA spending and identify whether any resources are spent on activities that duplicate the efforts of other agencies. The extent of these actions should be in proportion to the total resources of the program. Specifically, VA should require SAAs to track and report data on resources spent on approval activities such as site visits, catalog review, and outreach in a cost-efficient manner.|
|Department of Veterans Affairs||To help ensure that federal dollars are spent efficiently and effectively, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs should take steps to monitor SAA spending and identify whether any resources are spent on activities that duplicate the efforts of other agencies. The extent of these actions should be in proportion to the total resources of the program. Specifically, VA should collaborate with other agencies to identify any duplicative efforts and use the agency's administrative and regulatory authority to streamline the approval process.|
|Department of Veterans Affairs||The Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs should establish outcome-oriented performance measures to assess the effectiveness of SAA efforts.|