VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program: Improved Oversight of Independent Living Services and Supports Is Needed

VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program: Improved Oversight of Independent Living Services and Supports Is Needed

by U.S. Government Accountability Office
     
 

The IL "track"-one of five tracks within VA's VR&E program-provides a range of benefits to help veterans with service-connected disabilities live independently when employment is not considered feasible at the time they enter the VR&E program. These benefits can include counseling, assistive devices, and other services or equipment. GAO was asked to review issues…  See more details below

Overview

The IL "track"-one of five tracks within VA's VR&E program-provides a range of benefits to help veterans with service-connected disabilities live independently when employment is not considered feasible at the time they enter the VR&E program. These benefits can include counseling, assistive devices, and other services or equipment. GAO was asked to review issues related to the IL track. This report examines (1) the characteristics of veterans in the IL track, and the types and costs of benefits they were provided; (2) the extent to which their IL plans were completed, and the time it took to complete them; and (3) the extent to which the IL track has been administered appropriately and consistently across regional offices. To conduct this work, GAO analyzed VA administrative data from fiscal years 2008 to 2011, and reviewed a random, generalizable sample of 182 veterans who entered the IL track in fiscal year 2008. In addition, GAO visited five VA regional offices; interviewed agency officials and staff; and reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and agency policies and procedures. Of the 9,215 veterans who entered the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Independent Living (IL) track within the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program in fiscal years 2008 to 2011, most were male Vietnam era veterans in their 50s or 60s. Almost 60 percent served in the U.S. Army, and fewer than 1 percent served in the National Guard or Reserve. The most prevalent disabilities among these veterans were post-traumatic stress disorder and tinnitus. GAO's review of 182 IL cases from fiscal year 2008 found that VR&E provided a range of IL benefits to veterans. Among these cases, the most common benefits were counseling services and computers. Less common benefits included gym memberships, camping equipment, and a boat. GAO estimated that VR&E spent nearly $14 million on benefits for veterans entering the IL track in fiscal year 2008-an average of almost $6,000 per IL veteran. Most veterans completed their IL plans, which identify their individual goals to live independently and the benefits VR&E will provide. About 89 percent of fiscal year 2008 IL veterans were considered by VR&E to be "rehabilitated," that is, generally, to have completed their IL plans by the end of fiscal year 2011. VR&E discontinued or closed about 5 percent of cases for various reasons, such as the veteran declined benefits. Six percent of cases were open at the end of fiscal year 2011. Because the complexity of IL cases varied depending on veterans' disabilities and needs, some cases were fairly simple for VR&E to close. For example, one IL case only called for the installation of door levers and a bathtub rail. Another more complex case involved the provision of a range of IL benefits, including home modifications. Rehabilitation rates across regions varied from 0 to 100 percent, and regions with larger IL caseloads generally rehabilitated a greater percentage of IL veterans. While IL plans nationwide were completed in 384 days, on average, completion times varied by region, from 150 to 895 days. VR&E exercises limited oversight to ensure appropriate and consistent administration of the IL track across its regions. While the law currently allows 2,700 veterans to enter the IL track annually, data used to monitor the cap are based on the number of IL plans developed, not on the number of individual veterans admitted. Veterans can have more than one plan in a fiscal year, so one veteran could be counted multiple times towards the cap. GAO-13-474

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781491007631
Publisher:
CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date:
07/15/2013
Pages:
88
Product dimensions:
8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.18(d)

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