March 17, 2006

(Washington, DC) The top Republican and Democrat on the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs have joined forces once again, this time to help America's veterans obtain quality jobs.

In a letter to the head of the Government Accountability Office, U.S. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) asked the GAO to examine the U.S. Department of Labor's efforts to help veterans.

"We are particularly concerned about whether we have appropriate data on which to base our decisions. We can't make good decisions in Washington if we're relying on inaccurate data from the field," Sens. Craig and Akaka said.

There are approximately 24.5 million veterans in the United States, and as a group they have a better employment rate than their civilian counterparts. Currently, 96 percent of veterans are employed compared with a nationwide employment rate for all Americans of 95.3 percent. But within the 4 percent of veterans who are unemployed, certain segments of the veteran population, including disabled veterans and recently separated veterans, continue to struggle in finding quality jobs.

"One problem is that we don't have a good system for assessing how well current employment programs are serving our nation's veterans. Hopefully the GAO report will help us all get a better handle on the data," Craig and Akaka said.

This year the Bush administration has requested $161.2 million for employment efforts administered for veterans through the U.S. Department of Labor.

"I am particularly concerned about the men and women from Idaho who have returned and may be having a rough time finding a job," Sen. Craig said.

"Our veterans in Hawaii face unique challenges in employment. Oversight like this goes a long way in helping the Senate combat these challenges, " Sen. Akaka said.

The senators expect that the GAO will complete its report sometime this fall. Here is the text of their letter:



March 13, 2006

The Honorable David M. Walker
Comptroller General
U.S. Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20548

Dear Mr. Walker:

The Jobs for Veterans Act (JVA) of 2002 required the Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) to establish and implement a comprehensive performance accountability system to measure the performance of its two principal employment programs that focus exclusively on veterans: The Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program (DVOP) and the Local Veterans' Employment Representative (LVER) program. As part of this effort, VETS implemented standards consistent with performance measures under the Workforce Investment Act and began using the Office of Management and Budget's new common performance measures. In our efforts to conduct meaningful oversight regarding the DVOP and LVER program, we have become concerned that this new system will not provide sufficient and reliable data needed to assess how well these programs are serving veterans and whether these veteran-specific programs are more effective than other programs in helping veterans find meaningful work.

For instance, DVOP and LVER staff now perform distinct roles, yet the new system maintains the same performance measures for both programs. This raises the question of whether these performance measures adequately reflect how effective staff are in performing their new roles and what impact the new duties have on veterans' employment outcomes. Even more fundamental, the key performance measures ? the entered employment rates ? do not require service providers to show a connection between services rendered and a veteran's subsequent entry into a job. Thus, these performance measures may not provide a basis for assessing the impact that services provided by the DVOP and LVER staff have on a veteran's ability to obtain employment.

Additionally, veterans who receive services at One-Stop Career Centers are not always served by the DVOP/LVER staff. However, no data are collected on the characteristics of veterans (such as severity of any disability) who receive services from the different programs or about the quality of jobs that veterans obtain (such as whether a job is permanent, offers benefits, or is in a high growth industry). Thus, these measures do not appear to provide a basis for assessing whether DVOP and LVER staff are more effective than other One-Stop staff who provide employment services to veterans.

Finally, the Government Accountability Office, VETS, and others have raised concerns about the quality and reliability of information being collected and reported on the services that veterans receive and the employment outcomes achieved. Obviously, if the data used to calculate key performance measures lack integrity, we cannot rely on those measures to accurately assess how well these programs are serving veterans.

In order to ensure that the DVOP and LVER program are providing valuable and effective employment services to veterans, it is essential that we have appropriate and reliable performance data. As such, the Committee would like you to examine (1) whether VETS' current performance measures accurately reflect how well each of these programs is serving veterans; (2) whether appropriate data are collected to assess how well each program in the One-Stop system serves veterans; (3) whether the data collected and reported to VETS are reliable; and (4) what changes might be needed to better assess how well veterans are being served by the One-Stop system.

Thank you for your assistance on this matter. If you have questions concerning this request, please contact Ms. Amanda Meredith of the Committee's Republican staff at (202) 224-9126 or Ms. Dahlia Melendrez of the Committee's Democratic staff at (202) 224-2074.


Larry E. Craig          Daniel Akaka
Chairman                 Ranking Member


Media contact for Chairman Craig:
Jeff Schrade (202) 224-9093

Media contact for Ranking Member Akaka: Donalyn Dela Cruz (202) 224-6361