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Veteran employment services need better coordination, says GAO

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The federal government needs to better coordinate and monitor veteran employment services to adequately serve the more than 1 million servicemembers projected to leave the military and seek civilian employment from 2011 to 2016, says the Government Accountability Office.

In a report (.pdf) dated Dec. 13 and published on Jan. 10, GAO says six employment and training programs, five administered by the Labor Department and one by the Veterans Affairs Department, cost $1.2 billion and served 880,000 veterans in fiscal 2011.

Despite this spending, the unemployment rate for veterans who have recently left military service is higher than that of the civilian population. As more servicemembers transition to civilian work, GAO says the Labor and VA need to coordinate programs to target specific groups in the veteran population and reduce overlap.

Both agencies have a handbook that governs their coordination but GAO says it hasn't been updated since 2008 and doesn't include programs started by the Defense Department. Keeping the DoD out of their coordination can also lead to duplication of services without reaching more veterans, warns the report.

The report also says Labor should develop guidance for its Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program because the number of veterans with service-related disabilities is on the rise but Labor's most recent data says only 25 percent of DVOP recipients are disabled.

The program is required to ensure services first go to veterans who are both disabled and economically disadvantaged but current guidance allows states to prioritize DVOP funds differently and does not ensure its core objective is met.

It does note that Labor has tested a new reporting mechanism and is expected to put it into use early this year.

In its report, GAO recommends that Labor, VA and DoD develop interagency assistance guidance; Labor should consistently report performance goals and outcomes for its programs; and Labor and VA should develop studies to determine if veteran employment outcomes are a result of program participation or other factors.

For more:
- download the report, GAO-13-29 (.pdf)

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