VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment:
Further Program Management Improvements Are Needed
GAO-14-363T: Published: Feb 27, 2014. Publicly Released: Feb 27, 2014.
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What GAO Found
About half of the almost 17,000 veterans who entered the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program in fiscal year 2003 and received employment-related services were placed in suitable jobs, one-third left the program, and most of the others are still participating. It often took veterans 6 years or more to achieve success, due in part to veterans often leaving the program temporarily. Interviews with VR&E staff and participants and administrative data GAO reviewed suggest veterans face numerous challenges that affect their ability to obtain employment, especially related to mental health conditions, working with multiple VR&E counselors over time, and civilian employers' limited understanding of military work experience.
VA has taken steps to improve VR&E performance management, workload management, and staff training, but weaknesses remain. With regard to performance management, VA has an ongoing initiative to revise its approach for measuring rehabilitation success at the individual employee, regional, and national levels. However, the new approach VA is considering for employees reflects only the number, not the rate of successful outcomes, and therefore would not provide sufficient context for understanding program success. VA has not yet developed its new approaches for assessing rehabilitation success regionally and nationally. Also, VA began surveying participants' satisfaction with the program and plans to use the results to manage performance; while VA has generally followed good survey design practices, the agency has not fully assessed the reliability of early customer satisfaction results. In terms of workload management, VA has taken steps to reduce paperwork burdens on regional offices. However, several offices still reported heavy workloads and noted that VA's formula for allocating staff among offices does not consider other staff duties affecting workloads, such as education counseling. In addition, VA has not studied the relative effectiveness and efficiency of regional offices' approaches for assigning staff to manage workloads. Finally, with respect to training, VA has addressed redundancy and most gaps in training for VR&E staff, but gaps remain in the areas of job placement assistance and workplace accommodations.
Why GAO Did This Study
This testimony summarizes the information contained in GAO's January 2014 report, entitled VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment: Further Performance and Workload Management Improvements Are Needed (GAO-14-61)