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entitled 'Military and Veterans' Benefits: Enhanced Services Could 
Improve Transition Assistance for Reserves and National Guard' which 
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Report to Congressional Committees: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

GAO: 

May 2005: 

Military and Veterans' Benefits: 

Enhanced Services Could Improve Transition Assistance for Reserves and 
National Guard: 

GAO-05-544: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-05-544, a report to congressional committees: 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005 mandated 
that GAO review whether the transition assistance program (TAP) is 
meeting the needs of service members leaving the military. GAO (1) 
assessed TAP administration, including program participation, and (2) 
identified actions agencies are taking to improve TAP and challenges 
that remain. 

TAP serves military personnel with at least 180 days of active duty who 
separate or retire and members of the Reserves and National Guard who 
are released from active duty, a process termed demobilization. 
Recently, the Reserves and National Guard have been called to active 
duty in greater numbers than at any other time since the Korean War. 

What GAO Found: 

Transition assistance is intended to help service members successfully 
adjust to civilian life after serving in the military. Jointly 
administered by the Departments of Defense (DOD), Labor (DOL) and 
Veterans Affairs (VA), the four components of TAP are coordinated 
through meetings of agency TAP managers and interagency agreements. 

TAP Time Frames, Components, and Providers: 

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

Both the method of delivery and the level of participation may vary, 
with participation rates highest for the mandatory preseparation 
counseling. Because they demobilize within days after they return from 
overseas, generally members of the Reserves and National Guard may get 
similar information but not the time to participate fully in TAP. At 
demobilization they may complete their preseparation counseling forms 
as a group without individual attention; get 45 minutes of briefing on 
veterans' benefits rather than a half-day; and receive no employment 
preparation. Participation of service members in the Disabled TAP 
component is not known, because VA does not track this information. 

The federal agencies have taken actions to improve TAP's content and 
increase participation among full-time active duty military personnel 
but face challenges serving Reserve and National Guard members because 
of their rapid demobilization. To improve content, the agencies have 
updated, or plan to update, their manuals, forms, and other materials, 
and DOL is assessing its employment workshop curriculum using focus 
groups and survey data. To increase participation, DOL and VA provide 
some employment workshops and veterans' benefits briefings overseas, 
and DOD is considering mandating participation in all components. While 
the agencies have not assessed when and where to offer TAP for members 
of the Reserves and National Guard, DOL has pilot programs in three 
states that will offer employment workshops after the members return 
home. 

What GAO Recommends: 

We recommend that DOD, in conjunction with DOL and VA, determine what 
demobilizing Reserve and National Guard members need to make a smooth 
transition and explore options to enhance their participation, such as 
employment workshops before or after their demobilization and timely 
information about the need to apply for certain benefits while still on 
active duty. GAO also recommends that VA take steps to ascertain the 
level of participation of service members in the Disabled TAP 
component. All three agencies concurred with our findings and 
recommendations. 

www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-544. 

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact Cynthia A. Bascetta at 
(202) 512-7101 or bascettac@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Contents: 

Letter: 

Results in Brief: 

Background: 

Administration of the Four Components of TAP and Participation Vary by 
Service: 

Many Actions are Under Way to Improve TAP, but Challenges Remain in 
Meeting the Needs of Reserves and National Guard: 

Conclusions: 

Recommendations for Executive Action: 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

Appendix I: Scope and Methodology: 

Appendix II: Checklist Used by the Armed Forces in Preseparation 
Counseling until Fiscal Year 2005: 

Appendix III: Transition Assistance Funding by Military Service, Fiscal 
Years 2002 through 2004: 

Appendix IV: Scheduling and Delivery of TAP Components at Military 
Installations: 

Appendix V: Employment Workshop Critique Form for Completion by 
Participants: 

Appendix VI: Participation in Transition Assistance Program by 
Component, Fiscal Year, and Military Service: 

Appendix VII: Changes Planned in 2005 to Checklists Used by the Armed 
Forces in Preseparation Counseling: 

Appendix VIII: Overseas Locations Where DOL and VA Provide TAP: 

Appendix IX: Comments from the Department of Defense: 

Appendix X: Comments from the Department of Labor: 

Appendix XI: Comments from the Department of Veterans Affairs: 

Appendix XII: GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments: 

Related GAO Products: 

Table: 

Table 1: Circumstances of Reserve and National Guard Members Compared 
with Those of Others Separating: 

Figures: 

Figure 1: TAP Time Frames, Components, and Providers: 

Figure 2: The Key Interagency Agreement and Committees Involved in 
Coordination and Oversight of TAP: 

Abbreviations: 

TAP: transition assistance program: DOL: Department of Labor: 
DOD: Department of Defense:
DTAP: Disabled Transition Assistance Program: VA: Department of 
Veterans Affairs: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

Washington, DC 20548: 

May 20, 2005: 

The Honorable John W. Warner: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable Carl Levin: 
Ranking Minority Member: 
Committee on Armed Services: 
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Duncan Hunter: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable Ike Skelton: 
Ranking Minority Member: 
Committee on Armed Services: 
House of Representatives: 

The increased role of the armed forces in military operations around 
the world, and the greater reliance on the Reserves and National Guard, 
has focused national attention on what is done to help servicemen and 
women successfully transition to civilian life after serving in the 
military. Originally created in 1990, the transition assistance program 
(TAP) provides information on specific benefits and services, including 
employment and relocation assistance, education opportunities, health 
and life insurance, and financial planning. Jointly administered under 
agreements among the Departments of Defense (DOD), Labor (DOL), and 
Veterans Affairs (VA), TAP is intended to serve military personnel who 
separate and members of the Reserves and National Guard who demobilize 
after at least 180 days of active duty. Over 300,000 servicemen and 
women met these criteria and were eligible for TAP in fiscal year 2004. 

Concerns about the needs of transitioning service members--including 
those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan--and whether TAP is meeting 
their needs---are raised in the National Defense Authorization Act for 
Fiscal Year 2005, which mandated a GAO report on TAP. This report (1) 
assesses TAP's administration, including program participation, and (2) 
identifies actions agencies are taking to improve TAP as well as the 
challenges that remain. 

To develop the information for this report, we reviewed the legislative 
history of TAP, including records of congressional hearings, and 
interviewed responsible officials, including TAP program managers, from 
DOD, the armed forces and commands, the National Guard Bureau, VA, and 
DOL. We also reviewed TAP program materials, including guides and 
manuals prepared for participants and facilitators as well as slides 
and videos. We compiled and analyzed statistics on TAP program 
participation and surveyed selected veterans' service organizations. We 
also visited Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to talk to participants and 
observe briefings for members of the Army Reserve and National Guard 
being demobilized there as well as TAP sessions for others separating 
at the base. As agreed, the Coast Guard, which is overseen by Homeland 
Security, was not included in our review. To assess the reliability of 
the data on the numbers separating and on their TAP program 
participation, we reviewed documentation on the data systems and data 
entry, interviewed knowledgeable agency officials, and worked closely 
with them to understand or correct discrepancies. We determined that 
the numbers of service members separating and participating were 
sufficiently reliable for the purposes of this report, but that the 
participation rates we derived from these numbers represent 
approximations, as explained in a more detailed description of our 
methodology in appendix I. We conducted our work from December 2004 
through April 2005 in accordance with generally accepted government 
auditing standards. 

Results in Brief: 

While the federal agencies responsible for TAP work closely to 
coordinate their administration of the four components of TAP, the 
method of delivery and the level of participation may vary. The TAP 
components are: 

1. the armed forces' preseparation counseling on a range of services 
and benefits,

2. DOL's employment workshops,

3. VA's briefings on benefits available to all veterans, and: 

4. VA's disabled transition assistance program (DTAP) on vocational 
rehabilitation for individuals who have, or think they may have, a 
disability. 

The program emphasizes the workshops that help service members prepare 
for civilian employment, but preseparation counseling is the only 
component where attendance is mandatory. The administration of TAP is 
coordinated through regular meetings of TAP managers from each federal 
agency and the armed forces in accordance with interagency agreements. 
The delivery of TAP may vary in terms of the amount of personal 
attention participants receive, the length of the components, and the 
instructional methods used. Participation also varies, depending in 
part on the circumstances of the service members involved. For example, 
full-time active duty service members who are separating from the 
military may receive individual assistance in their preseparation 
counseling, a half day of information on veterans' benefits, and 2 days 
of employment workshops under TAP. By comparison, members of the 
Reserves and National Guard generally do not attend formal TAP 
components because they are often released from active duty a few days 
after they return from overseas. During demobilization, they receive 
preseparation counseling as a group and may also be briefed for 45 
minutes on veterans' benefits, but few attend any employment workshops. 
For DTAP, the level of participation of Reserves, National Guard and 
other separating service members is unknown because VA does not track 
this information. 

The agencies administering the transition program have taken several 
actions to improve TAP and increase participation, but they face 
challenges in tailoring the program to the Reserves and National Guard. 
To improve program content, the three agencies have plans to take, or 
have taken, actions to update their manuals, forms, and other briefing 
materials, including Internet sites. DOL is assessing its employment 
workshop curriculum using focus groups and survey data. To increase 
participation, both DOL and VA have expanded availability and now offer 
employment workshops and veterans' benefits briefings at some overseas 
bases so that service members likely to separate there have the 
opportunity to attend TAP. In addition, a draft DOD directive under 
consideration would require all service members to attend the VA 
briefings and allow all who indicate an interest to attend the 
employment workshops. However, agencies face the challenges of 
providing TAP so its timing and location can accommodate the Reserves 
and National Guard. During their rapid demobilization, the Reserve and 
National Guard members may not receive all the information on possible 
benefits to which they are entitled. Notably, certain education 
benefits and medical coverage require service members to apply while 
they are still on active duty. However, even after being briefed, some 
Reserve and National Guard members were not aware of the time frames 
within which they needed to act to secure certain benefits before 
returning home. In addition, most members of the Reserves and National 
Guard did not have the opportunity to attend an employment workshop 
during demobilization. TAP managers are concerned about meeting the 
needs of these service members but do not have information on the 
number interested, the appropriate topics, or the optimal timing and 
location. DOL told us that three state pilot programs will offer a 
version of the employment workshop to the Reserves and National Guard 
after they have been released from active duty and have returned home. 

We recommend that DOD, in conjunction with DOL and VA, determine what 
demobilizing Reserve and National Guard members need to make a smooth 
transition and explore options to enhance their participation in TAP. 
In addition, we recommend that VA take steps to determine the level of 
participation in DTAP to ensure those who may have especially complex 
needs are being served. 

Background: 

The role of the armed forces in the global war on terrorism and in 
military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq has heightened concerns 
about the assistance that these and other service members receive when 
they transition back into civilian life. The National Defense 
Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005[Footnote 1] mandated that GAO 
report on TAP for service members separating or retiring from the 
military and members of the Reserves and National Guard who are 
released from active duty in a process referred to as 
demobilization.[Footnote 2]

All service members who have been on active duty for at least 180 days 
are eligible for TAP, but those separating because of a disability are 
eligible regardless of the length of their active duty service. The 
time frames for provision of TAP are spelled out in law. Eligible 
service members must be provided TAP while they are on active duty and 
receiving military pay, either as soon as possible within the 2 years 
prior to their anticipated retirement date or in the 1 year prior to 
their anticipated separation date--in either case, no later than 90 
days prior to their discharge or release. The exception to this rule 
occurs when separations are not anticipated and less than 90 days of 
active duty remain. In such cases, TAP must be provided as soon as 
possible. 

About 309,000 servicemen and women were discharged or released from 
active military service in fiscal year 2004 with sufficient time on 
active duty to meet the TAP eligibility criteria. Of these, about 
192,000 were members of the full-time active duty armed forces---the 
Air Force, Army, Navy, or Marine Corps. Generally, the remaining 
117,000 were members of the Reserves and National Guard who had been 
called to active duty in response to a national emergency and were 
later released. Many of these service members had been employed in 
civilian occupations before they were called to active duty and were 
training for their military mission during certain weeks and weekends 
each year. 

The use of the Reserves and National Guard has increased dramatically 
in recent years, with more called to active duty than at any other time 
since the Korean War. About 478,000 members of the Reserves and 
National Guard have been called to active duty since September 11, 
2001, and about 181,000 members were on active duty as of April 2005. 
Most of these members were serving with the Army---many on overseas 
missions, and on the front lines in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Balkans. 
Not only have more members of the Reserves and National Guard been 
called to active duty and sent overseas, but the number of days they 
spend on average in active duty status has doubled since 1990, when TAP 
was established. DOD expects this trend to continue through at least 
fiscal year 2007, with Reserve and National Guard members serving on 
active duty for a year or more on average.[Footnote 3]

Delivery of the TAP components for most participants occurs at one of 
the 215 transition offices located on military installations. This 
includes 82 Air Force TAP offices located in Family Support Centers, 53 
Army offices that are part of the Army Career and Alumni Program, as 
well as the 62 Navy offices and 18 Marine Corps offices that constitute 
their respective Transition Assistance Management Programs. However, 
Reserve and National Guard members who were called to active duty, 
served, and are returning home usually transition at fewer locations, 
referred to as demobilization sites; for example, the Army has 27 
demobilization sites and the Marine Corps has 5 sites. Typically the 
demobilization process is rapid, taking a matter of days once the 
service members arrive back in the United States from overseas. The 
Army standard is to demobilize units in 5 days, and it is not uncommon 
for military installations to get 2 days' or less advance notice before 
returning troops arrive. During demobilization, service members may be 
expected to participate in as many as 18 separate briefings on various 
topics, such as legal and medical issues, and scheduled activities, 
such as physical examinations. According to officials we interviewed, 
control of the schedule for demobilization is in the hands of the 
commanders of the installations where demobilization occurs, subject to 
guidance from the armed forces on briefing topics and activities that 
must be covered. 

TAP provides information and links to a broad range of benefits and 
services for separating service members to ease their transition to 
civilian life. The topics that must be covered in TAP are spelled out 
in law[Footnote 4] and include employment and relocation assistance, 
education opportunities, health and life insurance, and financial 
planning. Most of the benefits become available to service members once 
they have separated and are veterans, but to be eligible for certain of 
these benefits, service members must take specific actions while they 
are still on active duty. The information that TAP provides on benefits 
and services needs to be accurate and up to date, reflecting the most 
recent changes in law. Changes enacted in 2004, for example, permit 
Reserve and National Guard members who were called to active duty after 
September 11, 2001, to obtain a year's worth of health insurance 
coverage for themselves and their family for each 90 days of active 
duty, as long as they contribute a share of the cost and continue to 
serve in a reserve capacity after they are released from active duty. 
Service members must select this coverage while on active duty and 
enroll within 180 days of release from active duty or they forfeit 
their right to this benefit. 

To take advantage of the various benefits and services, separating 
service members need to be aware of the benefits and services and know 
how to access them. For example, service members who have been on 
active duty continuously for 24 months and plan to pursue an education 
may receive up to $816 a month under the Montgomery GI Bill, if they 
have not previously declined the benefit. According to DOD, about 5,800 
members of the Reserves and National Guard had been on active duty long 
enough on January 31, 2005, to qualify for this benefit, which usually 
is available only to full-time active duty military personnel. 

TAP is designed to serve as a gateway to additional information and 
services that are available, either while service members are on active 
duty or after they have separated and returned home. For example, the 
DOL workshop highlights many of the skills and techniques helpful in 
obtaining employment. After completing the workshop, service members 
can benefit further by refining their résumés, practicing their 
interviewing skills, and using computers to conduct job searches. To 
take advantage of opportunities to do so, they are welcome to return to 
TAP offices on military installations. Even after service members have 
separated from active duty, DOD policy permits them to use the services 
at military installations during the 180 days following their 
separation. They are also encouraged to contact state workforce 
agencies' One-Stop Career Centers near their homes for further 
employment and training services. 

In our review of TAP in 2002,[Footnote 5] we found that the program was 
available to service members but not all participated. Some service 
members faced difficulties being released from military duties to 
attend TAP because of the priority accorded their military mission or 
the lack of supervisory support for TAP. For service members who were 
able to participate, TAP varied in content and delivery, in part 
because the armed forces were able to exercise their flexibility to 
tailor the program to better meet the circumstances of their service 
members. For example, some service members received additional services 
that were designed to enhance TAP; elsewhere, service members in remote 
locations got a shorter version of TAP or experienced the program 
through videos rather than on-site facilitators. 

Administration of the Four Components of TAP and Participation Vary by 
Service: 

TAP consists of separate components offered by DOD, DOL, and VA. These 
federal agencies facilitate interagency coordination through regular 
meetings and formal agreements. Participation in TAP varies by the 
component offered and the military service responsible. Preseparation 
counseling is the only component mandated in law and, accordingly, has 
had the highest rates of participation over the 3 years ending in 
fiscal year 2004. In general, participation rates are lower for the 
voluntary employment workshop. Among the services, the Navy and Marine 
Corps report the highest rates for the employment workshop, with the 
Marine Corps attributing its high rate to its recent policy of 
mandatory attendance. Reserve and National Guard members returning from 
overseas may get similar information but generally do not have time to 
attend formal TAP components during demobilization. Local installation 
commanders rather than TAP managers control demobilization schedules. 

TAP Emphasizes Civilian Employment and Provides Information on Other 
Services and Benefits: 

The TAP program consists of four core components with a specific 
federal agency responsible for the delivery and content of each, as 
shown in figure 1. According to DOD, the primary goal of TAP is to 
prepare separating service members and their families with the skills, 
tools, and self-confidence necessary to ensure successful reentry into 
the nation's civilian workforce. TAP represents the completion of the 
military personnel "life cycle" that begins with recruitment, continues 
through active duty service, and ends when the service member returns 
to the civilian sector. The first component is preseparation counseling 
that provides a brief overview of services and benefits available to 
those who are separating and is conducted by the armed forces. The 
second component is an employment workshop conducted over 2 or 2 ˝ days 
by certified facilitators following a DOL guide. The third component 
covers veterans' benefits, including disability compensation, and is 
often provided on the last day of the employment workshop by VA. The 
fourth component--the Disabled Transition Assistance Program, conducted 
by VA--offers information and counseling, primarily on vocational 
rehabilitation and employment options. It also covers insurance, 
specially adapted housing, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, for 
individuals who have or think they may have a service-connected 
disability. 

Figure 1: TAP Time Frames, Components, and Providers: 

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

Preseparation counseling is the only component where attendance is 
mandated in law; participation in all the other components is voluntary 
unless DOD or the services decide otherwise.[Footnote 6] All separating 
service members with at least 180 days of active duty must receive 
preseparation counseling. This component introduces all the subsequent 
components, highlighting each of them briefly. Each military service is 
required to provide the counseling prior to release or discharge as 
specified in law and to identify the type and source of benefits and 
services available in the following areas: employment, relocation, 
education, health and life insurance, and financial planning. 
Separating service members complete a checklist during this component, 
certifying that they have been informed of the services available to 
them and indicating with a check mark any subsequent services they wish 
to receive, such as the employment workshop. A copy of this signed 
checklist becomes a part of the individual service member's personnel 
record and, according to DOD officials, is required before the service 
member can be separated or demobilized. See appendix II for a complete 
list of the specific services and benefits covered, as indicated on the 
preseparation counseling checklist. 

More hours are set aside for the employment workshop than for any other 
component. As shown in figure 1, from 22 to 30 hours are scheduled for 
the delivery of all TAP components, with 16 to 20 hours devoted to this 
workshop. This emphasis on preparation for civilian employment is 
consistent with the purpose of TAP when it was established in 1990. 
Agency managers explained that TAP was designed to serve full-time 
active duty service members who generally had little prior civilian 
employment experience and might have had difficulty transferring skills 
acquired in the military to the civilian economy. Many had specialized 
in critical skills, such as those utilized in combat arms, which could 
not be easily transferred to civilian occupations. Helping military 
personnel translate their military experience into skills valued in the 
civilian workforce was viewed as of paramount importance. Although the 
Reserves and National Guard were specifically identified in the law 
that established TAP, the program was designed to meet the needs of 
full-time active duty service members because most Reserve and National 
Guard members had not served in an active duty capacity long enough to 
be eligible for TAP.[Footnote 7]

After separating service members complete one or more of the core TAP 
components, they may obtain additional, individualized counseling on 
specific benefits and services at TAP offices located on military 
installations. They may have access to automated tools designed to help 
them prepare résumés or cover letters to potential employers or 
opportunities to practice their job interview skills. Service members 
are also encouraged to contact state workforce agencies' One-Stop 
Career Centers and VA hospitals for additional services after they 
return home. 

Although veterans' service organizations do not have a formal role in 
the provision of TAP, they often serve as an informal referral resource 
for service members who seek their assistance. To varying degrees, the 
veterans' service organizations that we contacted were primarily 
involved in helping service members complete claims such as those for 
VA disability compensation, as well as claims for other VA benefits and 
medical treatment. Other activities performed by the veterans' service 
organizations include briefings on VA benefits and advice and 
counseling on a range of issues. Many military installations have 
provided these organizations with office space where they can assist 
service members. Certain veterans' organizations, such as the Disabled 
American Veterans, AMVETS, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, have taken 
advantage of this opportunity. For example, the Disabled American 
Veterans reports that it has 25 staff members located on installations 
who assist service members at about 80 military installations and 18 
military treatment facilities. 

Interagency Meetings and Agreements Assist in Coordination and 
Oversight: 

To facilitate interagency coordination and oversight, the federal 
agency partners established the TAP Steering Committee, which is 
chaired by DOL. Each federal agency has also designated a single person 
as the point of contact for TAP, generally referred to as the agency 
TAP manager. In addition, within DOD, each of the armed forces has 
identified a single person who is responsible, generally referred to as 
the service TAP manager. The DOD managers meet as a group on a 
quarterly basis and also with other agency TAP managers on a quarterly 
basis to discuss issues, propose initiatives, and act as a sounding 
board. Any problems that develop and are not resolved at the local 
level can be sent back to the Steering Committee for 
resolution.[Footnote 8]

Broad planning and budgeting for TAP takes place at the federal level 
within DOD and DOL--the only agencies that have funds dedicated to the 
support of TAP. DOD and the services estimate that about 200,000 
service members, not including members of the Reserves and National 
Guard, have been eligible for TAP each fiscal year since 2001 and have 
provided an average of $45 million per year in budget authority. (See 
app. III for a breakout by military service.) DOL develops its TAP 
budget using DOD's estimates of the number separating and historical 
information that about 70 percent of those separating actually attend 
the employment workshops. DOL reports that in fiscal year 2004 it 
actually spent about $13 million on TAP. VA estimates that it spent 
$0.7 million in the same year for its components of TAP. (For more 
information about the scheduling and delivery of employment workshops 
and other TAP components at the local installations, see app. IV.)

To clarify the roles of the federal agencies involved, an interagency 
agreement is required by law for all TAP components except 
preseparation counseling, where DOD has sole responsibility. Pursuant 
to law, the roles and responsibilities of DOD, DOL, and VA for the 
transition program are outlined in a 1994 agreement called a memorandum 
of understanding.[Footnote 9] (See fig. 2.) Under this agreement, DOL 
has the leadership role in delivering the employment workshops, DOD 
ensures that service members participate and supplies logistical 
support, and VA provides information on veterans' benefits and delivers 
the DTAP component for separating members who have or may have service- 
connected disabilities. A separate 1993 agreement between DOD and VA 
outlines how VA provides its TAP components overseas, with VA providing 
the staff and DOD providing the funding and logistical 
support.[Footnote 10] In addition to carrying out these agreements at 
the national level, the federal agencies encourage similar agreements 
among state and regional offices and the installations located in their 
areas. 

Figure 2: The Key Interagency Agreement and Committees Involved in 
Coordination and Oversight of TAP: 

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

Uniformity in the content and quality of TAP is achieved in part by 
standardized guidebooks and manuals as well as certification of 
facilitators for one or more components. For both preseparation 
counseling and the employment workshop, participants receive guidebooks 
or manuals covering topics identified in the law that established 
TAP.[Footnote 11] Like instructional textbooks, the guidebooks and 
manuals help structure how these components are presented. In addition, 
manuals have been developed for use by the individuals who facilitate 
the employment workshops, and all workshop facilitators must be trained 
and certified by the National Veterans' Training Institute.[Footnote 
12] For oversight purposes and to help ensure the quality of the 
workshops, DOL asks participants to complete a critique form shown in 
appendix V. On the form, participants have an opportunity to provide 
comments and suggestions and also indicate on a scale how much they 
have gained from the information presented. DOL facilitators review the 
forms to assess the level of satisfaction of participants and consider 
suggestions for improvements. Although the VA components of TAP do not 
have comparable guides or manuals, VA officials explain that the slides 
and handouts they use can be more easily updated to conform to changes 
in the laws governing veterans' benefits. 

The demobilization of Reserve and National Guard members, however, is 
outside the control of the TAP managers. DOD and armed forces 
guidelines establish the procedures governing demobilization and the 
topics to be covered, but individual installation commanders have 
discretion over the actual schedule. To provide TAP information to 
Reserve and National Guard members in 2003, the DOD TAP manager and 
service managers prepared written materials for distribution at 
demobilization. The materials included a laminated, pocket-sized 
preseparation guide written for Reserve and National Guard members that 
highlighted all of the benefits and services available and provided Web 
site addresses and toll-free numbers. 

TAP's Delivery and Participation Vary by Circumstances, Component, and 
Service: 

Depending on the branch of military service or command responsible, the 
location, and other circumstances, the amount of time devoted to the 
TAP components may vary. Other variations include the extent of 
personal attention given participants and the instructional method 
used. Preseparation counseling may take the form of individualized, 
one- on-one counseling sessions of an hour or more or it may take the 
form of group briefings, depending in part on the time available and 
the numbers to be counseled. Group sessions are more common at large 
bases like those maintained by the Army and Marine Corps, where many 
individuals are separating. Also, the Army has made use of technology 
and offers preseparation counseling at banks of computers that use 
interactive programs and include headphones so that participants can 
work independently and at their own pace while remaining part of a 
group. In the Navy, transition assistance may take place on board ship 
rather than at military installations. 

TAP varies in part because the military services are able to exercise 
their flexibility to tailor the program to better meet the 
circumstances of their service members. While some service members 
receive additional services designed to enhance TAP, others at remote 
locations may participate in TAP by video or telephone because there 
are no trained personnel on-site. Because of the demobilization 
timetables, many Reserve and National Guard members cannot take 
advantage of TAP components offered to full-time active duty military 
personnel and instead receive much shorter presentations as part of 
large groups at demobilization briefings.[Footnote 13] For example, 
members of the Reserves and National Guard may be offered a 45-minute 
veterans' benefits briefing by VA at the demobilization briefing while 
3 to 4 hours of veterans' benefits briefing are provided other military 
personnel on the last day of the TAP workshop. 

Participation also varies by the military service involved and the 
component of TAP offered. For example, the Army had about twice as many 
service members attending preseparation counseling as any one of the 
other services from fiscal year 2002 through 2004. During the same 
period, the number of Army Reserve and Army National Guard members 
attending preseparation briefings at demobilization increased more than 
ten-fold, from about 9,000 to about 93,000. (App. VI shows the number 
of service members who separated and those who attended TAP components 
by military service.)

As expected, estimated participation rates have been the highest for 
preseparation counseling where attendance is mandated in law. The 
average rates for the three years ending in 2004 have ranged from 76 
percent to over 100 percent, depending on the military 
service.[Footnote 14] Also as expected, the estimated participation 
rates are generally lower for the 3,000 or more employment workshops 
held each year, where attendance is voluntary. The average rates for 
the three years ranged from 56 percent to 86 percent. This represents 
the number attending the workshops as a percentage of all who separated 
and were eligible for TAP.[Footnote 15] The Army reports that about 20 
percent of those eligible each year indicated that they were not 
interested in attending the workshops. The Marine Corps, which has 
mandated attendance at the employment workshops, and the Navy show the 
highest participation rates over the three years. Although the Navy 
shows higher rates for participation in employment workshops than in 
preseparation counseling, the discrepancy is more likely a reflection 
of reporting problems than of actual attendance, and the actual numbers 
of service members receiving counseling is probably higher.[Footnote 
16] Retirees were disproportionately represented in the employment 
workshops. Across the armed forces, about one-third of all who 
participate are retirees, although they constitute about one-fifth of 
all who separate. The remainder are those separating or released prior 
to retirement. 

No data are available for participation in the VA components of TAP. 
Because the veterans' benefits briefings are usually held on the last 
day of the employment workshops, VA officials indicated that the 
participation rates for their briefings are equivalent to the rates for 
the employment workshops. In addition, VA told us that DTAP is provided 
to all service members who are receiving care or separating from 
medical treatment facilities by VA counselors who are located at or 
make regular visits to these medical facilities.[Footnote 17] However, 
no data are available to determine the number of individuals eligible 
for DTAP, and VA's records do not distinguish the number who 
participate in this component from the total of all recipients of VA 
outreach briefings. 

Very few members of the Reserve or National Guard are able to attend 
the employment workshops, although at demobilization they complete 
their preseparation counseling checklists and may be briefed on 
veterans' benefits and health insurance coverage options, depending on 
the schedule developed for demobilization. The TAP managers with DOD 
and the military services explained that the chief problem is lack of 
time during demobilization, which is often completed in 5 days. In 
addition, many of these service members are anxious to return home and 
are not interested in prolonging their stay to attend workshops. 
Further, many have jobs at home that are being held for them, so they 
may not need to attend the employment workshop. However, the TAP 
managers also told us that they believe that employment information in 
some form is relevant and useful for some Reserve and National Guard 
members. They noted that some were self-employed before they went on 
active duty, and their businesses may have suffered or gone into 
bankruptcy in their absence. Other service members may have worked for 
companies that have gone out of business since their active duty began. 
Other members might prefer to find better jobs than the ones they held 
before they went on active duty. While TAP managers were not able to 
provide data on the number who might be interested in attending the 
employment workshop, members of the Reserves and National Guard we met 
generally confirmed the views of the TAP managers. 

Many Actions are Under Way to Improve TAP, but Challenges Remain in 
Meeting the Needs of Reserves and National Guard: 

The agencies administering the program have taken several actions to 
improve TAP program materials for all eligible personnel separating 
from the military, including Reserve and National Guard members. In 
addition, the agencies have taken steps to increase participation, 
primarily among full-time active duty military personnel. However, 
despite efforts so far, challenges remain, particularly in meeting the 
needs of demobilizing Reserve and National Guard members for transition 
assistance. 

Several Actions Directed at Improving Program Content: 

DOD is updating information and reconsidering the topics to be covered 
during preseparation counseling, based on its assessment of the 
differing needs of participants. As a result, DOD plans to eliminate 
the "one size fits all" approach currently in place. For full-time 
active duty service members, it has drafted an updated counseling 
checklist. To meet the needs of demobilizing Reserve and National Guard 
members, it has drafted a separate counseling checklist tailored to 
their circumstances. (See app. VII for the changes that are planned to 
the form shown in app. II.) In updating the information for both 
groups, DOD added several Internet sites so that service members can 
follow up to obtain more information on available services and 
benefits, including sites explaining options for health insurance 
coverage. To better meet the needs of Reserve and National Guard 
members, their new checklist eliminates information on benefits that 
apply only to active duty members, such as relocation assistance and 
separation pay. Instead, the new form provides benefit information 
applicable to demobilizing Reserve and National Guard service members, 
such as reemployment rights, employer support, and loan relief. 

DOD is taking the same approach to the revision of the guidebook and 
other materials used in preseparation counseling. DOD officials plan to 
update the preseparation guide that contains information on services 
and benefits available to service members separating from full-time 
active duty. In addition, they are developing a separate guide for 
demobilizing Reserve and National Guard personnel. Meanwhile, the 
military services have developed new materials specifically geared 
toward the needs of Reserve and National Guard service members. For 
instance, the Army reported that it uses a separate script and slides 
for preseparation counseling of demobilizing Reserve and National Guard 
service members and gives them a handout on services and benefits 
tailored to their needs as well as a calling card with the telephone 
number of a resource center that these service members can contact for 
one-on-one assistance. 

DOL and VA are also taking actions to improve the information they 
provide on benefits and services available to separating service 
members. DOL plans to use focus groups and survey data to assess the 
strengths and weaknesses of its employment workshop curriculum in 
serving the needs of all service members.[Footnote 18] VA has improved 
its marketing activities by issuing pamphlets, brochures, a videotape, 
and a wallet-size card with information on how to obtain further 
information about VA health care and benefits. One of its brochures is 
entitled "A Summary of VA Benefits for National Guard and Reserve 
Personnel."

To ensure that all participants have the information they need in DTAP, 
VA formed a task force in 2004 to restructure and standardize the DTAP 
curriculum to meet the needs of all separating service members who have 
or may have a disability and invited DOD and the military services to 
participate. As a result, VA has developed a new curriculum with video, 
slides, and a script for DTAP. This standardized DTAP curriculum is 
intended to provide extensive information on VA's vocational 
rehabilitation and employment services. VA also issued a quick 
reference guide to present information about vocational counseling, 
rehabilitation, and employment services available to active duty 
service members as well as veterans with service-connected 
disabilities. The guide is intended for distribution at DTAP sessions 
offered at military installations and treatment facilities and for 
other purposes and locations as appropriate. Along with this new 
effort, VA continues its outreach campaign to contact all service 
members in need of these services. 

Actions Are Planned or Under Way to Increase Participation in TAP: 

DOD and its partner agencies are considering or have undertaken several 
actions designed to increase participation in TAP, including: 

* making attendance mandatory or mandating that service members receive 
permission to attend TAP, so that individuals have the opportunity to 
participate with the support of their commanders or other leaders;

* emphasizing the importance and relevance of veterans' benefits by 
offering this information before the employment workshop as a stand- 
alone briefing by VA;

* sending DOL contractors and VA staff overseas to present their TAP 
components to service members located at bases around the world; and: 

* developing a centralized database to automate and manage information 
on participation. 

Recently, the TAP service representatives at DOD proposed to the 
Secretary of Defense that participation in TAP be mandatory. Under the 
proposed policy change, all service members would be required first to 
attend preseparation counseling. Following preseparation counseling, 
all service members would be required to attend the veterans' benefits 
briefing, because the range of benefits is extensive and likely to 
affect the lives of most separating service members. In addition, 
attendance at DTAP would be required of all service members who have or 
think they have a service-connected disability, are awaiting a medical 
discharge, or have incurred an injury or illness while on active duty, 
or aggravated a pre-existing condition. Further, service members with 
an interest in attending the employment workshop who check "Yes" on the 
preseparation counseling form would receive permission, without 
exception, to attend the DOL-or service-sponsored employment workshop 
in its entirety. 

The policy change in TAP participation is being proposed to (1) bring 
more consistency to the overall program, (2) allow more service members 
to access TAP, and (3) encourage commanders to release service members 
to attend the VA briefings and all other relevant components of TAP. In 
2002, we reported that the support that commanders and supervisors have 
for transition services may determine the degree to which service 
members have access to the services. If supervisors are not supportive 
of the transition assistance, or if they feel that mission needs are 
too pressing, they may be reluctant to allow service members under them 
to access services offered. Some service members we met told us that 
they faced difficulties being released from military duties to attend 
TAP because of the priority accorded their military mission or the lack 
of supervisory support for TAP. They said that even when commanders 
support attendance at the workshop, others--such as the platoon, 
section, or unit leaders--may be reluctant to approve requests to 
attend the workshops. This proposed policy change is designed to 
address these issues. 

In addition, VA and DOL are taking actions to improve access to 
transition assistance for active duty service members stationed 
overseas. It is important for service members stationed overseas to 
receive transition assistance there, especially for those who separate 
at overseas locations. Starting in 1993, VA sent six military service 
coordinators or veterans' benefits counselors to U.S. military 
installations located in Europe and later increased the staff to seven, 
assigned them for tours of 3 to 6 months, and extended their territory 
beyond Europe. However, VA has no staff overseas for 3 months each 
year. In 2003, DOL began phasing in its employment workshops, first 
using its own staff and later contractor personnel living overseas, 
rather than relying on the military services to conduct overseas 
employment workshops, as had been the case previously. Standard 
operating procedures are being developed to clarify the roles and 
responsibilities of DOL, DOD, and VA in the delivery of employment 
workshops at overseas locations. Currently VA provides its benefits 
briefings at 68 military installations and plans to have a military 
service coordinator in Bahrain starting in May 2005,[Footnote 19] while 
DOL provides its employment workshops at 49 military installations and 
plans to expand to additional installations. (See app. VIII for a list 
of locations overseas where DOL and VA offer TAP.)

In January 2005, the TAP managers with DOD and the military services 
met to discuss ways to better understand service member participation 
in TAP. In particular, they discussed the development of a centralized 
database to automate and manage information on the participation of 
active duty and Reserve and National Guard service members. This new 
information system is in the initial planning stages. It would provide 
DOD and the services with the capability of disaggregating data on 
service members attending preseparation counseling to identify those 
who are retiring or separating voluntarily or involuntarily. The system 
would also provide information on the reasons why service members do 
not receive preseparation counseling at least 90 days prior to 
separation or retirement, as required by law. In addition, the new 
information system would permit DOD and the services to analyze 
information specifically relevant to active duty service members or to 
Reserve and National Guard service members. 

Challenges Remain in Meeting the Needs of Reserve and National Guard 
Service Members: 

Although several actions are under way or planned to improve TAP, 
challenges remain, particularly in designing transition services that 
better accommodate the schedules of demobilizing Reserve and National 
Guard service members. DOD acknowledges that this presents several 
unique challenges, that the service members have not been surveyed to 
determine how to meet their needs, and that further study might suggest 
ways to address the challenges, primarily in the logistics of when and 
where to offer TAP. Table 1 describes some of the key differences in 
circumstances between Reserve and National Guard members and others 
separating that need to be considered. 

Table 1: Circumstances of Reserve and National Guard Members Compared 
with Those of Others Separating: 

Demobilizing Reserve and National Guard members: During the 
demobilization process, little or no time is available to address 
transition assistance issues thoroughly; Full-time active duty members: 
Most can begin accessing TAP services 12 months prior to separation or 
24 months prior to retirement. 

Demobilizing Reserve and National Guard members: Most are demobilized 
at a location in which they do not work and live; Full-time active duty 
members: Most attend TAP at the same location where they work and live 
with their families. 

Demobilizing Reserve and National Guard members: Some are likely to 
have serious financial issues; 
Full-time active duty members: Most do not have serious financial 
issues. 

Demobilizing Reserve and National Guard members: Most are anxious to 
reunite with their families and reintegrate into the community; Full-
time active duty members: Reunion and reintegration are not issues for 
most. 

Source: TAP managers with DOD and the military services. 

[End of table]

The TAP managers for DOD and the military services identified several 
challenges in designing transition services that better meet the needs 
of demobilizing Reserve and National Guard service members. Staff who 
provide transition assistance may not know when Reserve and National 
Guard units are returning for demobilization, because national security 
concerns prevent the release of information on the movement of large 
numbers of service members. Moreover, the time scheduled for 
demobilization varies by service and demobilization site. Commanders 
are challenged with trying to balance demobilizing some units while at 
the same time mobilizing others. They also balance getting Reserve and 
National Guard members back to their families as quickly as possible 
with the extra time needed for transition assistance. Finally, DOD, VA, 
and DOL do not know the amount of resources needed to provide 
transition assistance in a different format, such as providing TAP 
after the Reserve and National Guard service members have returned home 
and begun to readjust to civilian life. At this point, they may be more 
receptive to TAP and better able to define their needs. 

DOD's proposed policy revisions acknowledge logistical issues that 
limit access for Reserve and National Guard members to TAP. For 
example, the planned changes to the preseparation counseling checklist 
require that demobilizing service members be released by commanders to 
attend the employment workshop only if there is time to complete this 
component before they are released from active duty. Under current 
demobilization schedules, Reserve and National Guard members do not 
have sufficient time to attend the workshops. Further, the TAP managers 
with DOD and the military services told us that they did not know how 
many demobilizing service members would be interested, if time could be 
made available, or how the content should be altered to meet their 
special needs. 

To deal with the logistical challenges, the TAP managers for DOD and 
the military services are considering the option of providing some TAP 
components to Reserve and National Guard members after they have been 
demobilized, and DOL is involved in state pilot programs to test this 
option. DOD officials envision VA presenting its benefits briefing and 
DTAP, where applicable, during a scheduled drill weekend after the 
service members have been home for 45 to 60 days. DOD officials believe 
such an option would require additional resources and a mandate that 
Reserve and National Guard commanders allow sufficient time for staff 
to provide the transition assistance. However, the TAP managers do not 
know how many Reserve and National Guard members might be interested 
and able to attend such activities. Meanwhile, DOL is currently 
involved in three state pilot programs of employment workshops designed 
for returning Reserve and National Guard members. One in Minnesota will 
offer a shortened version of the employment workshop, using a 
curriculum based on input from unemployed or underemployed Reserve and 
National Guard service members. The pilot program will involve a change 
in National Guard rules so that members can be required to attend the 
activity 30 days after their release, when they may be facing financial 
and other problems. In Oregon, DOL is working closely with the National 
Guard and the state workforce agency to provide employment workshops to 
National Guard members. The first workshops were offered in March 2005. 
In Michigan, the state workforce agency is negotiating with the 
Reserves and National Guard to arrange a 4-day workshop, where these 
personnel will work alongside veterans who are receiving intensive case 
management services at the One-Stop Career Center. 

Besides limiting access to the employment workshops, short 
demobilization time frames may also result in Reserve and National 
Guard members who are not informed in a timely manner of the 
requirement to apply for health insurance coverage and certain VA 
education benefits while on active duty. The National Guard members we 
spoke with who had attended the VA benefits briefing told us that they 
could not recall being informed of the need to apply for these benefits 
while on active duty; these members included one who believed that he 
had been on active duty long enough to qualify for the more generous 
education benefits. They indicated that too much information was 
covered in the 45-minute benefits briefing they received from VA at 
demobilization and believed that at a minimum the VA should have 
highlighted the significance of applying immediately, explained what 
information was required, and told them where to submit the 
application. They added that they were unfamiliar with the services and 
layout of the installation where they were demobilizing, because they 
were only passing through on their way home. 

Conclusions: 

The men and women who serve in our armed forces, particularly now that 
the U.S. military has increased its presence in contingency operations 
around the world, put their lives on the line every day. For this 
reason, it is important that the government do all it can to help 
servicemen and women successfully transition to civilian life after 
service ends. Unlike their full-time active duty counterparts, however, 
the Reserves and National Guard members returning from active duty 
overseas who might opt for transition assistance do not always have the 
opportunity to participate in formal TAP components. Although they 
receive some of the same information in briefings at demobilization, 
they may be required to attend as many as 18 briefings and activities 
over 5 days, most dealing with issues other than TAP, such as legal and 
medical matters. As a result, the information on available benefits is 
often abbreviated and may not emphasize certain benefits, including 
some education and medical benefits, that they may forfeit if the 
service members do not apply while they are still on active duty. In 
addition, because these personnel are released from active duty within 
days of returning to the United States, any transition assistance must 
fit within this compressed time frame, and be offered overseas near the 
areas of combat or after the service members have returned home. The 
agencies responsible for TAP are aware of the challenge but have not 
determined the number interested, the appropriate topics, or the 
optimal timing and location. Moreover, for service members who have 
incurred disabilities, DTAP information is critical. Yet VA does not 
keep track of how many service members attend DTAP. Better program 
statistics in this area could help VA meet the needs of these service 
members and provide follow-up assistance. 

Recommendations for Executive Action: 

To ensure that members of the Reserve and National Guard have the 
opportunity to benefit from transition assistance, we recommend that 
DOD, in conjunction with DOL and VA, determine what demobilizing 
Reserve and National Guard members need to make a smooth transition and 
explore the logistical options for providing that assistance, such as 
opportunities for employment workshops before or after their 
demobilization and providing timely information about the need to apply 
for certain benefits while still on active duty. To develop more 
accurate program statistics, we also recommend that VA keep track of 
service members who attend DTAP to ensure that adequate follow-up is 
possible with this population, which may be in particular need of the 
services. 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

We provided a draft of this report to DOD, DOL and VA for review and 
comment. All concurred with our findings and recommendations. The 
written comments from these agencies appear in appendixes IX through 
XI. 

DOD said that the report accurately portrays the program and its 
operational processes and also recognizes logistical and other 
challenges in meeting the needs of Reserve and National Guard service 
members. DOD agreed with our recommendation and stated its commitment 
to work with its partner agencies to determine the needs of these 
service members for assistance, explore options to enhance their 
participation, and ensure that they receive timely information on the 
need to apply for certain benefits before they are released from active 
duty. 

DOL acknowledged the need for continuous monitoring and refinement of 
the employment workshops. DOL stated it will offer its assistance to 
DOD in determining the TAP workshop requirements for members of the 
Reserves. In addition, DOL highlighted several initiatives described in 
the report that are designed to improve transition services, such as 
the pilot programs in three states that provide employment information 
to service members after their release from active duty. DOL noted that 
the lessons learned and best practices that are derived from these 
pilot programs will be disseminated widely. 

VA said it recognizes the need to emphasize time limits for 
establishing eligibility for certain benefits while on active duty, 
especially education and medical benefits. VA added that it is 
developing a brochure to describe a new education benefit for members 
of the Reserves and National Guard. VA also explained that it is 
developing a process to track DTAP participation, as we recommended. In 
addition, an agreement with the National Guard Bureau has been drafted 
so that VA will know when and where demobilizing members return to 
their communities. 

We are sending copies of this report to appropriate congressional 
committees, the Secretaries of DOD, DOL, and VA, and other interested 
parties. Copies will be made available to others upon request. In 
addition, the report will be available at no charge on GAO's Web site 
at http://www.gao.gov. If you have any question about this report, 
please call me at (202) 512-7101. Key contributors are listed in 
appendix XII. 

Signed by: 

Cynthia A. Bascetta: 
Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues: 

[End of section]

Appendix I: Scope and Methodology: 

To assess how the transition assistance program (TAP) is administered, 
we reviewed the legislative and regulatory history of TAP, including 
records of congressional hearings, and interviewed responsible 
officials, including TAP managers and other officials from the 
Departments of Defense (DOD), Labor (DOL), and Veterans Affairs (VA); 
the armed forces; Reserve Affairs; and the National Guard Bureau. We 
did not interview officials from the Department of Homeland Security 
concerning the Coast Guard. We reviewed memorandums of agreement among 
the federal agencies involved, minutes of Steering Committee meetings, 
as well as policy directives prepared by DOD and VA. We reviewed TAP 
program materials, including guidebooks and manuals prepared for 
participants and facilitators, slides, videos, and handouts. To examine 
the role of veterans' service organizations--the extent of their 
participation in TAP and their views on what their role should be--we 
conducted structured interviews with officials in the following 
organizations: AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, 
Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. 

To experience firsthand the challenges of providing TAP to members of 
the Reserve and National Guard returning from overseas, we visited Fort 
Bragg, North Carolina, on February 23-24, 2005. At Fort Bragg we 
observed a morning demobilization briefing given to members of the Army 
National Guard that covered several topics, including VA veterans' 
benefits, health insurance, and completion of the preseparation 
counseling checklist. We also attended the formal TAP preseparation 
counseling, two concurrent employment workshops, and the briefing on VA 
veterans' benefits for other service members. In addition, we discussed 
transition assistance with the installation command, program providers, 
and demobilizing service members who participated in the demobilization 
briefing as well as other service members who participated in the 
formal TAP components. 

To show the level of participation in TAP for each of the armed forces 
for each fiscal year from 2002 through 2004, we obtained from the TAP 
managers the number of service members participating in two of the four 
components of transition services--preseparation counseling and the DOL 
employment workshop. VA data do not separately identify the number of 
service members attending its benefits briefings or Disabled Transition 
Assistance Program sessions. However, VA told us that in the United 
States the number of service members attending the employment workshop 
should approximate the number attending the VA benefits briefings, 
because the VA briefings usually follow the employment workshops. 

To estimate the rate of participation in preseparation counseling, we 
used data from the armed forces on the number of service members 
discharged who had served on active duty for at least 180 days and data 
on the number of service members who had completed the preseparation 
counseling checklist. To estimate the rate of participation in the DOL 
employment workshop, we used data provided by DOL on service members 
completing the workshop and DOD data on service members discharged who 
had served on active duty for at least 180 days. We note that the DOL 
workshop is not mandatory and not all service members express an 
interest in taking the workshop. Because the number of service members 
interested in taking the workshop was not available for all the armed 
forces, our estimate represents the number of service members 
completing the workshop in relation to the number of service members 
discharged, not the number who indicate they wanted to attend the 
workshop. We would expect the estimated rate of participation in the 
DOL employment workshops to be higher if we were able to compare the 
number participating with the number expressing an interest in 
participating. 

We consider the rates shown in appendix VI to be estimates, because 
many of the service members who participated in a component during one 
of the years shown were not among the service members who separated 
that same year. By law, the armed forces must try to provide 
preseparation counseling between 1 and 2 years prior to separation. 
This means that service members may participate in TAP in 2002 but not 
be counted as separating until 2004. Further, some service members who 
participate do not separate as planned, either because of their 
personal decision to extend or reenlist, or the armed forces' policy of 
stop loss. Stop loss keeps individuals on active duty beyond their 
normal date of separation or retirement and has been implemented at 
various times by all of the armed forces since September 2001. For 
these reasons, the estimated rates for the Army and Marine Corps in the 
mandatory preseparation counseling component exceeded 100 percent in 1 
or more years. 

To assess the reliability of the data on the number of service members 
discharged with at least 180 days of active duty service and the number 
participating in TAP, we reviewed documentation about the data systems 
and data entry, interviewed agency officials knowledgeable about the 
data, and worked closely with agency officials when we found 
discrepancies to understand or correct them. We determined that the 
data were sufficiently reliable for the purposes of this report. We 
conducted our work from December 2004 through April 2005 in accordance 
with generally accepted government auditing standards. 

[End of section]

Appendix II: Checklist Used by the Armed Forces in Preseparation 
Counseling until Fiscal Year 2005: 

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

[End of section]

Appendix III: Transition Assistance Funding by Military Service, Fiscal 
Years 2002 through 2004: 

In millions of dollars. 

Air Force funding source: 

DOD; 
FY 2002: $8.9; 
FY 2003: $8.8; 
FY 2004: $8.9. 

Air Force; 
FY 2002: $0.6; 
FY 2003: $0.7; 
FY 2004: $1.4. 

Total; 
FY 2002: $9.5; 
FY 2003: $9.5; 
FY 2004: $10.3. 

Army funding source: 

DOD; 
FY 2002: $13.3; 
FY 2003: $13.3; 
FY 2004: $13.3. 

Army; 
FY 2002: $7.9; 
FY 2003: $6.0; 
FY 2004: $6.9. 

Total; 
FY 2002: $21.1; 
FY 2003: $19.3; 
FY 2004: $20.2. 

Marine Corps funding source: 

DOD; 
FY 2002: $4.0; 
FY 2003: $4.0; 
FY 2004: $4.0. 

Marine Corps; 
FY 2002: $0.5; 
FY 2003: $0.7; 
FY 2004: $0.5. 

Total; 
FY 2002: $4.5; 
FY 2003: $4.7; 
FY 2004: $4.5. 

Navy funding source: 

DOD; 
FY 2002: $11.0; 
FY 2003: $10.2; 
FY 2004: $10.3. 

Navy; 
FY 2002: $0.0; 
FY 2003: $0.0; 
FY 2004: $0.0. 

Total; 
FY 2002: $11.0; 
FY 2003: $10.2; 
FY 2004: $10.3. 

Total funding source: 

DOD; 
FY 2002: $37.2; 
FY 2003: $36.3; 
FY 2004: $36.5. 

Services; 
FY 2002: $9.0; 
FY 2003: $7.4; 
FY 2004: $8.7. 

Total; 
FY 2002: $46.2; 
FY 2003: $43.7; 
FY 2004: $45.3. 

Source: DOD. 

[End of table]

DOD's budget assumes an estimated 200,000 full-time active duty 
personnel have been eligible for TAP each fiscal year since 2001. The 
number of participants is based on lists drawn up by the military 
services of personnel who have indicated their interest in separating 
as well as those who may be uncertain about their decision. This list 
constitutes the anticipated separations but does not include 
unanticipated separations or demobilization of Reserve and National 
Guard members. DOD officials note that funding for TAP has been flat 
since fiscal year 1995; prior to that, we reported that DOD spent about 
$83 million in fiscal years 1992 and 1993. 

[End of section]

Appendix IV: Scheduling and Delivery of TAP Components at Military 
Installations: 

The scheduling of employment preparation workshops generally takes 
place in one of the 44 states with medium to large military 
installations. DOL relies on federal Veterans' Employment and Training 
directors[Footnote 20] assigned to each state and territory, who meet 
with the commanders of the military installations in their area and 
obtain estimates for the numbers separating at each installation. Based 
on these planning figures, workshop schedules are developed that are 
reviewed quarterly and may be adjusted more frequently as long as DOL 
has at least 14 days' warning. Generally DOL tries to have at least 15 
participants in each workshop, but preferably 25 to 35. If many 
additional participants are expected, DOL officials told us that they 
will try to add a facilitator to give participants more individual 
attention during certain sessions, for example, when participants 
practice interviewing for jobs. In some cases, the services have 
requested separate workshops for retirees only or for senior personnel 
with different kinds of skills. Depending on its budget, the number of 
potential participants, and the availability of facilitators with the 
appropriate skills, DOL may honor such requests. For example, we 
observed two employment workshops running concurrently at Fort Bragg, 
one specifically for personnel in the higher pay grades. 

The facilitators who conduct most of the employment workshops are state 
employees supported by DOL grants who specialize in providing services 
to veterans. They are either local veterans' employment representatives 
or disabled veterans' outreach program representatives[Footnote 21] and 
must be trained and certified by the National Veterans' Training 
Institute. For the veterans' benefits component, VA generally relies on 
DOL to arrange for the workshops and contact a local or regional VA 
representative to conduct the VA briefing on veterans' benefits at the 
end of the workshop. Overseas and at about 70 military installations in 
the United States, the employment workshop facilitators are DOL 
contractors working for Native American Management Services, and they 
are also trained and certified by the institute. DOL officials we 
interviewed told us that they prefer to have VA personnel present 
information on veterans' benefits because the VA personnel usually have 
the expertise, experience, and most current information necessary to 
advise participants concerning their personal circumstances. 

[End of section]

Appendix V: Employment Workshop Critique Form for Completion by 
Participants: 

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

[End of section]

Appendix VI: Participation in Transition Assistance Program by 
Component, Fiscal Year, and Military Service: 

Military service: Air Force: Total eligible separations[A]; Fiscal 
year: 2002: 39,365; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 53,074; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 50,694; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 143,133. 

Military service: Air Force: Preseparation counseling participants[A]; 
Fiscal year: 2002: 31,842; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 33,994; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 42,677; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 108,513. 

Military service: Air Force: Preseparation participation rate[B]; 
Fiscal year: 2002: 80.9%; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 64.1%; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 84.2%; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 75.8%. 

Military service: Air Force: Total eligible separations[C]; Fiscal 
year: 2002: 23,994; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 31,847; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 32,954; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 88,795. 

Military service: Air Force: Employment workshop participants; Fiscal 
year: 2002: 18,725; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 20,449; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 22,611; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 61,785. 

Military service: Air Force: Employment participation rate[B]; Fiscal 
year: 2002: 78.0%; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 64.2%; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 68.6%; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 69.6%. 

Military service: Army: Total eligible separations[C]; Fiscal year: 
2002: 73,450; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 62,541; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 80,001; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 215,992. 

Military service: Army: Preseparation counseling participants; Fiscal 
year: 2002: 71,706; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 70,358; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 87,402; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 229,466. 

Military service: Army: Preseparation participation rate[B]; Fiscal 
year: 2002: 97.6%; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 112.5%[D]; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 109.3%[D]; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 106.2%[D]. 

Military service: Army: Employment workshop participants; Fiscal year: 
2002: 36,441; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 40,238; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 44,109; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 120,788. 

Military service: Army: Employment participation rate[B]; Fiscal year: 
2002: 49.6%; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 64.3%; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 55.1%; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 55.9%. 

Military service: Marine Corps: Total eligible separations[C]; Fiscal 
year: 2002: 31,002; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 29,670; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 31,047; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 91,719. 

Military service: Marine Corps: Preseparation counseling participants; 
Fiscal year: 2002: 27,867; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 28,620; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 32,093; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 88,580. 

Military service: Marine Corps: Preseparation participation rate[B]; 
Fiscal year: 2002: 89.9%; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 96.5%; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 103.4%[D]; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 96.6%. 

Military service: Marine Corps: Employment workshop participants; 
Fiscal year: 2002: 19,964; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 27,132; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 28,424; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 75,520. 

Military service: Marine Corps: Employment participation rate[B]; 
Fiscal year: 2002: 64.4%; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 91.4%; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 91.6%; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 82.3%. 

Military service: Navy: Total eligible separations[C]; Fiscal year: 
2002: 37,978; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 42,872; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 48,105; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 128,955. 

Military service: Navy: Preseparation counseling participants[E]; 
Fiscal year: 2002: 24,885; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 38,642; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 38,071; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 101,598. 

Military service: Navy: Preseparation participation rate[B]; Fiscal 
year: 2002: 65.5%; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 90.1%; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 79.1%; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 78.8%. 

Military service: Navy: Employment workshop participants[E]; Fiscal 
year: 2002: 32,647; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 36,680; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 41,003; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 110,330. 

Military service: Navy: Employment participation rate[B]; Fiscal year: 
2002: 86.0%; 
Fiscal year: 2003: 85.6%; 
Fiscal year: 2004: 85.2%; 
Fiscal year: 2002-2004: 85.6%. 

Source: GAO analysis of DOD and DOL data: 

[A] Numbers include Reserve and National Guard members who demobilized 
after at least 180 days of federal active duty. The Air Force count of 
preseparation counseling participants does not distinguish these 
members from other eligible members who participate. The Air Force TAP 
manager believes that a more reliable measure of participation is a 
December 2004 audit of 400 personnel records of members separated from 
various installations that shows 91percent had completed their 
preseparation counseling checklists. 

[B] This is calculated as the percentage of total eligible separations. 
For the employment workshops where participation is voluntary, a better 
indicator would be the percentage of service members indicating an 
interest in attending, but these data are not available for all 
services and years. 

[C] Number of service members separating with 180 days or more of 
active duty, not including Reserve and National Guard members. 

[D] Rates may exceed 100 percent for several reasons. Participation in 
preseparation counseling is encouraged 1-2 years prior to separation, 
so some participants included in rate did not separate in that year; 
others chose to reenlist or were required to remain on active duty past 
their separation date because of the stop loss policy. The Army reports 
that in 2004 preseparation counseling participants included about 9,700 
reenlistments that, if deducted from the numbers participating, would 
bring the Army's rate down from 109 percent to 97 percent. 

[E] The Navy reports that the numbers of preseparation participants are 
understated because of incomplete or delayed reports from uniformed 
military personnel to transition staff, and that the actual numbers 
should more closely approximate the numbers of employment workshop 
participants. 

[End of table]

[End of section]

Appendix VII: Changes Planned in 2005 to Checklists Used by the Armed 
Forces in Preseparation Counseling: 

EMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE: 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Teacher and 
Teacher's Aide Opportunities/Troops to Teachers; Draft checklist for 
active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: Corrected Internet 
site; www.proudtoserveagain.com; Draft checklist for Reserve and 
National Guard only: Same as active duty. 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Federal 
Employment Opportunities; 
Draft checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: 
Adds Internet sites; www.us.jobs.com; www.go-defense.com; Draft 
checklist for Reserve and National Guard only: Same as active duty. 

Current checklist for all separating service members: State Employment 
Agencies/America's Job Bank; 
Draft checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: 
Adds Internet Site; www.ajb.org; 
Draft checklist for Reserve and National Guard only: Same as active 
duty. 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Not listed; Draft 
checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: Adds 
Career One-Stop; www.careeronestop.org; Draft checklist for Reserve and 
National Guard only: Same as active duty. 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Not listed; Draft 
checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: 
Omitted, not applicable; 
Draft checklist for Reserve and National Guard only: Adds Reemployment 
Rights; www.dol.gov/elaws/userra.htm. 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Not listed; Draft 
checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: 
Omitted, not applicable; 
Draft checklist for Reserve and National Guard only: Adds Employer 
Support for Guard and Reserve; www.esgr.org. 

RELOCATION ASSISTANCE: 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Permissive 
(TDY/TAD) and Excess Leave; 
Draft checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: 
No change; 
Draft checklist for Reserve and National Guard only: Omitted, not 
applicable. 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Travel and 
transportation allowances; 
Draft checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: 
No change; 
Draft checklist for Reserve and National Guard only: Omitted, not 
applicable. 

EDUCATION/TRAINING: 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Education 
benefits (Montgomery GI Bill, Veterans Educational Assistance Program, 
Vietnam-era etc.); 
Draft checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: 
Adds Internet site; www.gibill.va.gov; Draft checklist for Reserve and 
National Guard only: Same as active duty. 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Additional 
education or training options; 
Draft checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: 
Adds Small Business Administration; www.sba.gov; Draft checklist for 
Reserve and National Guard only: Same as active duty. 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Licensing and 
Certification information; 
Draft checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: 
Adds Apprenticeship to title and sites:; (1) Department of Labor; 
www.acinet.org; (2) U.S. Army; www.cool.army.mil; (3) U.S. Military 
Apprenticeship Program; www.cnet.navy.mil/usmap/; (4) DANTES; 
www.dantes.doded.mil/dantesweb/certification/index.htm; Draft checklist 
for Reserve and National Guard only: Same as active duty. 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Defense Activity 
for Non-Traditional Educational Support; Draft checklist for active 
duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: Corrected Internet site; 
www.dantes.doded.mil/; Draft checklist for Reserve and National Guard 
only: Same as active duty. 

HEALTH AND LIFE INSURANCE: 

Current checklist for all separating service members: 60-day or 120-day 
extended Military and limited Dental benefits (Eligible involuntary 
Separatees); 
Draft checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: 
Transitional Health Care Benefit 
- for Eligibility Criteria and additional information go to 
www.tricare.osd.mil; 
Draft checklist for Reserve and National Guard only: Transitional 
Health Care Benefit - for Eligibility Criteria and additional 
information go to www.tricare.osd.mil. 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Not listed; Draft 
checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: 
Omitted, not applicable; 
Draft checklist for Reserve and National Guard only: (1) A member of a 
reserve component who is separated from active duty to which called or 
ordered in support of a contingency operation if the active duty is for 
a period of more than 30 days; (2) A member who is separated from 
active duty for which the member is involuntarily retained (Stop Loss) 
in support of a contingency operation; (3) A member who is separated 
from active duty served pursuant to a voluntary agreement of the member 
to remain on active duty for a period of less than one year in support 
of a contingency operation; www.tricare.osd.mil/TricareHandbook. 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Option to 
purchase 18-month conversion health insurance. Concurrent pre-existing 
condition coverage with purchase of conversion health insurance; Draft 
checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: Adds 
Internet Site; www.tricare.osd.mil/chcbp; Draft checklist for Reserve 
and National Guard only: Same as active duty. 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Veterans' Group 
Life Insurance; 
Draft checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: 
Adds Internet Site; www.insurance.va.gov; Draft checklist for Reserve 
and National Guard only: Same as active duty. 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Not listed; Draft 
checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: Adds 
Veterans Centers; www.va.gov/rcs; Draft checklist for Reserve and 
National Guard only: Same as active duty. 

FINANCES: 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Financial 
Management (TSP, Retirement, SBP); Draft checklist for active duty 
excluding Reserve and National Guard: No change; 
Draft checklist for Reserve and National Guard only: Omitted, not 
applicable. 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Separation pay 
(Eligible involuntary Separatees); Draft checklist for active duty 
excluding Reserve and National Guard: No change; 
Draft checklist for Reserve and National Guard only: Omitted, not 
applicable. 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Not listed; Draft 
checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: 
Omitted, not applicable; 
Draft checklist for Reserve and National Guard only: Adds Post 
Deployment Pay--Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) 
www.dfas.mil. 

RESERVE AFFILIATION: 

Draft checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: 
No change; 
Draft checklist for Reserve and National Guard only: Omitted, not 
applicable. 

DISABLED VETERANS' BENEFITS: 

Current checklist for all separating service members: VA Disability 
Benefits; 
Draft checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: 
Adds Internet site www.va.gov; 
Draft checklist for Reserve and National Guard only: Same as active 
duty. 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Not listed; Draft 
checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: 
Omitted, not applicable; 
Draft checklist for Reserve and National Guard only: Adds new section; 
SOLDIERS AND SAILORS RELIEF ACT; www.dod.mil/specials/Relief Act 
Revision. 

Current checklist for all separating service members: Not listed; Draft 
checklist for active duty excluding Reserve and National Guard: Adds 
new section; POST GOVERNMENT SERVICE COUNSELING; Draft checklist for 
Reserve and National Guard only: Omitted, not applicable. 

Source: GAO analysis of DOD documents. 

[End of table]

[End of section]

Appendix VIII: Overseas Locations Where DOL and VA Provide TAP: 

Locations: Belgium; 
VA staff at locations as of April 2005. 

Locations: Iceland; 
VA staff at locations as of April 2005. 

Locations: Spain; 
DOL plans to have contractors at locations in future[A]; VA staff at 
locations as of April 2005. 

Locations: Azores; 
VA staff at locations as of April 2005. 

Locations: Guam; 
DOL contractors at location as of April 2005. 

Locations: Japan; 
DOL contractors at location as of April 2005; VA staff at locations as 
of April 2005. 

Locations: Okinawa, Japan; 
DOL contractors at location as of April 2005; VA staff at locations as 
of April 2005. 

Locations: South Korea; 
DOL contractors at location as of April 2005; VA staff at locations as 
of April 2005. 

Locations: Germany; 
DOL contractors at location as of April 2005; VA staff at locations as 
of April 2005. 

Locations: Great Britain; 
DOL contractors at location as of April 2005; VA staff at locations as 
of April 2005. 

Locations: Italy; 
DOL contractors at location as of April 2005[B]; VA staff at locations 
as of April 2005. 

Locations: Bahrain; 
DOL plans to have contractors at locations in future[A]; VA plans to 
have staff at locations in future. 

Locations: Portugal; 
DOL plans to have contractors at locations in future[A]. 

Locations: Turkey; 
DOL plans to have contractors at locations in future[A]. 

Source: DOL and VA. 

[A] DOL plans to add these additional locations, which are dependent on 
the result of Status of Forces Agreement negotiations. 

[B] DOL's contractor in Italy has not yet scheduled any employment 
workshops, citing delays in ongoing Status of Forces Agreement 
negotiations. 

[End of table]

[End of section]

Appendix IX: Comments from the Department of Defense: 

OFFICE OF THE UNDER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: PERSONNEL AND READINESS: 

4000 DEFENSE PENTAGON: 
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20301-4000: 

MAY 9 2005: 

Ms. Cynthia A. Bascetta: 
Director:
Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues: U.S. Government 
Accountability Office: Washington, DC 20548: 

Dear Ms. Bascetta: 

This is the Department of Defense (DoD) response to the GAO draft 
report, "MILITARY AND VETERANS' BENEFITS: Enhanced Services Could 
Improve Transition Assistance for Reserves and National Guard," dated 
April 22, 2005 (GAO Code 130439)."

DoD appreciates the opportunity to comment on the draft report and 
concurs with the GAO findings and recommendations with the attached 
comments. 

Please direct any questions to my point of contact on this matter, Mr. 
Gary Woods (functional) at (703) 602-4949, ext. 161 or Mr. Ronald L. 
Home (alternate functional) at (703) 602-4949, ext. 115. 

Sincerely,

Signed by: 

John M. Molino: 

Under Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy): 

Enclosure: 

Overall Comments: 

GAO DRAFT REPORT - DATED April 22, 2005 GAO CODE 130439/GAO-05-544: 

"MILITARY AND VETERANS' BENEFITS: Enhanced Services Could Improve 
Transition Assistance for Reserves and National Guard"

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE COMMENTS TO THE RECOMMENDATIONS: 

OVERALL COMMENTS: 

This draft report provides a review of the Department of Defense (DoD), 
Department of Labor (DoL), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 
joint agency administration and implementation of the Transition 
Assistance Program (TAP). The report accurately portrays the Transition 
Assistance Program across the Armed Forces and represents the 
operational processes utilized to provide the myriad of benefits and 
services prescribed by Congress. 

RECOMMENDATION 1: The GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense, in 
conjunction with the Departments of Labor and Veterans' Affairs, 
determine what demobilizing Reserve and National Guard members need to 
make a smooth transition and explore the logistical options for 
providing that assistance, such as opportunities for employment 
workshops before or after their demobilization and providing timely 
information about the need to apply for certain benefits while still on 
active duty. (Pages 24 and 25/GAO Draft Report): 

DOD RESPONSE: DoD concurs with the above recommendation. The GAO report 
recognizes that there are challenges in meeting the needs of the 
Reserve and National Guard Service member for TAP. The GAO report also 
recognizes the challenges and demands of logistics, timeliness, timing, 
that must be addressed in order to meet the transition needs of the 
Guard and Reserves. Finally, the GAO reports recognizes that DoD, DoL, 
and VA must determine the "right content" of the four components that 
make up TAP that will meet the needs of Reserve and Guard Service 
members. 

The Department is committed to work with the Departments of Labor and 
Veterans Affairs to determine what demobilizing Reserve and National 
Guard members need to make a smooth transition back into civilian life. 
The Department, in conjunction with DoL and VA will explore options to 
enhance Reserve and National Guard participation in TAP, as well as 
ensure that timely information about the need to apply for certain 
benefits while still on active duty is provided to them.

[End of section]

Appendix X: Comments from the Department of Labor: 

U.S. Department of Labor: 
Assistant Secretary for Veteran's Employment and Training: Washington, 
D.C. 20210: 

MAY 10 2005: 

Ms. Cynthia A. Bascetta:
Director, Education, Workforce and Income Security Issues: U.S. 
Government Accountability Office: Washington, DC 20548: 

Dear Ms. Bascetta: 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the report "Military and 
Veterans Benefits". The Department of Labor Veterans Employment and 
Training Service (VETS) in general concurs with this report. VETS fully 
recognizes that in order to ensure continued success at providing 
Transition Assistance Program (TAP) workshops to separating service 
members, especially those in the National Guard and Armed Forces 
Reserves, monitoring and refinement of the existing model must be 
continuous. To that end VETS has undertaken several initiatives 
designed to improve our service to all members of the Armed Forces. 

Shortly, I will sign a letter to the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense 
for Community and Family Policy to offer our assistance in determining 
TAP workshops requirements for members of the Armed Forces Reserves. As 
in the case of the National Guard, briefings on USERRA will continue. 

We are very aware that reserve component units present special 
challenges. The three state DOL pilots identified on the report will 
produce lessons learned and best practices, information that will be 
disseminated widely. Through our Federal Directors of Veterans 
Employment and Training we have begun to make contact with the Adjutant 
General of each state to assist them in determining National Guard TAP 
requirements. Through our partners in the state workforce investment 
agencies, we are confident that we can identify and provide employment 
assistance to National Guard members who find themselves unemployed or 
underemployed as a result of their deployment. Briefings about the 
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) will 
continue as in the past. 

TAP workshops are currently conducted at a number of overseas 
locations. These overseas workshops are provided to those service 
members and spouses who have been assigned to an overseas base and 
expect to separate from the service, either overseas, or immediately 
upon return to the United States. We have been very successful at this 
effort based on the evaluations received from workshop attendees. Our 
goal is to add more overseas sites depending on the successful 
resolution of issues associated with the various Status of Forces 
Agreements. 

We also recognize the necessity of continuing to improve our TAP 
employment workshops. To that end, VETS is undertaking a self-study 
program to ensure that the program remains relevant to the needs of 
transitioning service members and to improve its effectiveness. 

The Transition Assistance Program workshops are one of the three 
primary missions of VETS. The men and women separating from the Armed 
Forces and reentering civilian society deserve our best efforts. We are 
proud of our success thus far. At the same time we know that 
improvements can be made to specific portions of our program. It is our 
intention to identify where those improvements can be made and 
implement them as soon as possible. 

Again, thank you for the opportunity to comment on this report. 

Sincerely,

Signed by: 

Federico Juarbe, Jr. 

[End of section]

Appendix XI: Comments from the Department of Veterans Affairs: 

THE DEPUTY SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: WASHINGTON: 

May 13, 2005: 

Ms. Cynthia Bascetta:
Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues: U. S. 
Government Accountability Office: 441 G Street, NW:
Washington, DC 20548: 

Dear Ms. Bascetta: 

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has reviewed the Government 
Accountability Office's (GAO) draft report, MILITARYAND VETERANS' 
BENEFITS: Enhanced Services Could Improve Transition Assistance for 
Reserves and National Guard (GAO 05-544). VA concurs with GAO's 
findings and recommendation to VA. The enclosure provides comments for 
clarification. 

VA appreciates the opportunity to comment on your draft report. 

Sincerely yours,

Signed by: 

Gordon H. Mansfield: 

Enclosures: 

Enclosure: 

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (VA) COMMENTS TO GOVERNMENT 
ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE (GAO) DRAFT REPORT, MILITARY AND VETERANS' 
BENEFITS: Enhanced Services Could Improve Transition Assistance for 
Reserves and National Guard (GAO-05-544): 

To ensure that members of the Reserve and National Guard have the 
opportunity to benefit from transition assistance, we recommend that 
DOD, in conjunction with DOL and VA, determine what demobilizing 
Reserve and National Guard members need to make a smooth transition and 
explore the logistical options for providing that assistance, such as 
opportunities for employment workshops before or after their 
demobilization and providing timely information about the need to apply 
for certain benefits while still on active duty. To develop more 
accurate program statistics, we also recommend that VA keep track of 
service members who attend DTAP to ensure that adequate follow-up is 
possible with this population, which may be in particular need of the 
services. 

Concur - VA recognizes the need to emphasize time limits for 
establishing eligibility for certain VA benefits and services while 
still on active duty. This is especially important for Montgomery GI 
Bill enrollment. The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) provides 
information on education, medical, and other benefits and emphasizes 
time limits for applying for these benefits during VBA's National Guard 
and Reserve briefings. This information is also included in the 
Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and Disabled Transition Assistance 
Program (DTAP) briefings for Reserve and National Guard members. 
Information on the two-year medical care provision for combat theater 
veterans is also included in these briefings. 

The respective reserve components are responsible for informing 
National Guard/Reserve members when they become eligible for the 
Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve Program (title 10 U. S. Code, 
Chapter 1606). Leadership at the reserve component determines 
eligibility based on Department of Defense (DoD) regulations. Once a 
National Guard/Reserve member becomes "eligible" and applies for 
benefits, VBA sends him/her a pamphlet each year containing current 
information. For the new Reserve Educational Assistance program (title 
10, U. S. Code, Chapter 1607), the law clearly states that DoD must 
inform reservists in writing prior to their release from active duty 
that they are eligible for this new benefit. VBA is developing a 
Chapter 1607 brochure for returning National Guard/Reserve members that 
DoD will send to reservists as they are determined "eligible" for the 
Chapter 1607 benefit. VBA will also make this pamphlet available to 
returning National Guard/Reserve members during TAP and DTAP briefings. 

VA concurs with GAO's recommendation to track DTAP attendees and to 
develop statistics concerning DTAP participation. VBA is currently 
developing a process to improve identification and tracking of DTAP 
participants. Specifically, the Compensation and Pension Service and 
the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service are developing 
criteria, e.g., what data elements need to be captured, the best method 
for capturing the data, and at what points in the process the data 
should be captured that will provide the most important information. 

VBA is working with DoD to better coordinate VA briefings for National 
Guard and Reserve members who are being demobilized. Points of contact 
are being established at national and local levels to ensure National 
Guard and Reserve personnel are aware of VA benefits and services. VA 
and the National Guard Bureau are finalizing a Memorandum of Agreement 
(MOA) that will provide VA with timely and appropriate data regarding 
demobilization of National Guard units so that VBA will know where and 
when groups of demobilizing service members will return to their 
communities. VA anticipates a signing ceremony with the National Guard 
Bureau later this month. 

In addition to the steps that VBA is taking to improve the TAP program, 
Veterans Health Administration's (VHA) Office of Public Health and 
Environmental Hazards assisted in developing a brochure that provides a 
summary of benefits for National Guard and Reserve personnel. Over one 
million copies of this brochure have been distributed to military 
personnel. A copy of this brochure is enclosed and may be found at the 
following web site address: 

http://www.va.gov/environagents/docs/SVABENEFITS.pdf: 

Please note too, that the Joint VA/DoD Strategic Plan contains items 
that relate to Reserve and National Guard. Health Executive Council 
(HEC) Objective 2.4 states, "Develop and implement a plan to improve 
joint protocols and follow-up procedures to provide world-class 
healthcare to injured or ill service members and veterans, particularly 
members of the Reserve or National Guard", and Benefits Executive 
Council Objective 3.1 states, "Enhance collaborative efforts to educate 
active duty, reserve, and National Guard personnel on VA and DoD 
benefits programs, eligibility criteria and application processes." 
Plans and strategies to implement these objectives are in place and 
milestones are being met. For example, performance measures are 
currently being discussed and are in draft form. These performance 
measures are expected to be in place in the first quarter of FY 2006. 
The Seamless Transition Office has a draft plan that will specifically 
address access to health care for members of the National Guard and 
Reserves. Briefings at the unit level and at "Reunion Family Days" will 
be provided. Highest priority will be identifying members who are 
severely injured or ill and for those who will need seamless continuity 
of care as they transit from Military Treatment Facilities to VA. 

[End of section]

Appendix XII: GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments: 

GAO Contact: 

Irene Chu (202) 512-7102; 
Patricia L. Elston (202) 512-3016: 

Acknowledgments: 

In addition to the contacts named above, William E. Hutchinson and 
Martin Scire made key contributions to this report. In addition, Roger 
Thomas provided legal assistance, William R. Chatlos assessed the 
reliability of participation data, and Corinna Nicolaou assisted in 
report development. 

[End of section]

Related GAO Products: 

Military Pay: Gaps in Pay and Benefits Create Financial Hardships for 
Injured Army National Guard and Reserve Soldiers. GAO-05-125. 
Washington, D.C.: February 17, 2005. 

Military Pay: Gaps in Pay and Benefits Create Financial Hardships for 
Injured Army National Guard and Reserve Soldiers. GAO-05-322T. 
Washington, D.C.: February 17, 2005. 

Vocational Rehabilitation: More VA and DOD Collaboration Needed to 
Expedite Services for Seriously Injured Servicemembers. GAO-05-167. 
Washington, D.C.: January 14, 2005. 

Military Personnel: DOD Needs to Address Long-term Reserve Force 
Availability and Related Mobilization and Demobilization Issues. GAO- 
04-1031. Washington, D.C.: September 15, 2004. 

Military Personnel: DOD Actions Needed to Improve the Efficiency of 
Mobilizations for Reserve Forces. GAO-03-921. Washington, D.C.: August 
21, 2003. 

Military and Veterans' Benefits: Observations on the Transition 
Assistance Program. GAO-02-914T. Washington, D.C.: July 18, 2002. 

Military Downsizing: Persons Returning to Civilian Life Need More Help 
from DOD. GAO/HEHS-94-39. Washington, D.C.: January 21, 1994. 

FOOTNOTES

[1] P.L. 108-375. This authorization also mandated a GAO review of 
mental health services provided by DOD and VA, including mental health 
services for service members and veterans with or at risk of developing 
post-traumatic stress disorder. 

[2] In this report we use the term separation to refer to the discharge 
or retirement of full-time active duty service members and also to the 
release of members of the Reserves and National Guard from active duty. 

[3] Authority to call Reserve and National Guard service members to 
involuntary active duty is currently limited to 24 months, but members 
can volunteer for extended duty. 

[4] See 10 USC 1142 and 1144 for required information and services that 
constitute TAP. 

[5] See GAO, Military and Veterans' Benefits: Observations on the 
Transition Assistance Program, GAO-02-914T (Washington, D.C.: July 18, 
2002). 

[6] Participation in the employment workshop, however, has been 
mandatory for those separating from the Marine Corps, since the policy 
went into effect in December 2001. 

[7] Many members of the Reserve and National Guard were called to 
active duty for the Persian Gulf War, from 1990 to 1991, at the time 
when TAP was established, but they were demobilized after serving less 
than 180 days on average. For the next decade, relatively few were 
called to active duty. 

[8] In addition to the committee meetings, annual conferences held in 
2000, 2001, and 2002 brought together all the entities responsible for 
TAP to share information on the program and, in some cases, propose 
improvements. 

[9] A revised agreement ready for signature in 2005 includes the 
Department of Homeland Security, the agency responsible for the Coast 
Guard. 

[10] According to VA, DOD provided $364,000 to VA for this purpose in 
fiscal year 2004, a 23 percent increase from the prior year due to the 
fluctuating value of the U.S. dollar against other foreign currencies. 

[11] For a copy of the October 2001 edition of DOD's participant guide 
to preseparation counseling, see 
http://www.dodtransportal.org/dav/lsnmedia/LSN/dodtransportal/. For the 
November 2002 edition of DOL's participant manual for the employment 
workshops, go to http://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/tap/main.htm. 

[12] For a copy of the 2002 edition of DOL's manual for employment 
workshop facilitators, see 
http://www.nvti.cudenver.edu/tapfacilitator/home/index.htm. The Air 
Force also has a manual for personnel who conduct the Air Force 
preseparation counseling; see the March 2005 edition at 
http://www.afpc.randolph.af.mil/famops/trans.htm. 

[13] The 30-minute briefing on health insurance options we attended 
during demobilization at Fort Bragg was longer than the time provided 
during preseparation counseling for other service members, but the 
other members would generally have more time while still on active duty 
to obtain further information, study their options, and arrive at their 
decision. 

[14] Some rates shown in appendix IV for the Army and Marine Corps 
exceed 100 percent for participation in preseparation counseling after 
fiscal year 2002. DOD explains that these rates reflect three 
scenarios. Because of the "stop loss" policy, some service members who 
expected to separate and received the required counseling had to remain 
on active duty. Other service members chose to reenlist, including 
about 9,700 Army personnel in fiscal year 2004. Finally, because the 
counseling is encouraged so far in advance of separation, some 
participants who received counseling in one fiscal year did not 
separate until the following year. 

[15] A more accurate rate would compare the attendance numbers with the 
numbers of those who indicated an interest in attending the workshop, 
but these data were not available for all services and years. 

[16] In the Navy, uniformed military personnel conduct preseparation 
counseling. Because these personnel often have other responsibilities 
or they are located aboard ship for extended periods of time, the 
manual records of attendance that are forwarded to transition 
assistance staff may be incomplete or delayed. DOD told us that the 
Navy TAP manager is working to improve reporting. 

[17] DOD reports that about 3,500 service members were placed on the 
temporary disability retirement list in 2004. For information on DOD's 
disability system under which separating service members with 
disabilities may be placed on temporary retirement, see GAO, DOD 
Disability: Overview of Compensation Program for Service Members Unfit 
for Duty, GAO-01-622 (Washington, D.C. April 27, 2001). 

[18] In addition, DOL told us that the next update of its participant 
manual will include information on how a veteran with a service- 
connected disability who wants to own his or her own business could 
take advantage of the opportunity to obtain federal procurement 
contracts in accordance with Presidential Executive Order 13360, issued 
October 21, 2004. 

[19] Although VA is sending staff overseas to provide benefits 
briefings, it does not have the staff to provide DTAP overseas. 

[20] These directors are employees of the U.S. Department of Labor who 
report to the Assistant Secretary for Veterans' Employment and 
Training. 

[21] For more information about the other responsibilities of these 
employees, see GAO, Veterans' Employment and Training Service: Greater 
Flexibility and Accountability Needed to Better Serve Veterans, GAO-02- 
192T (Washington, D.C.: October 30, 2001). 

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