Vocational Rehabilitation

VA Needs to Emphasize Serving Veterans With Serious Employment Handicaps Gao ID: HRD-92-133 September 28, 1992

Veterans with serious employment handicaps often have a hard time obtaining and keeping suitable jobs. Yet the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) vocational rehabilitation program makes no special effort to help such veterans. For example, it mails them the same information package that all veterans receive and schedules appointments for veterans on a first-come, first-served basis, without considering handicap. VA's productivity standards for its employees consider only the volume of cases handled and do not take into account the special effort often required in working with veterans with serious employment handicaps. If VA focused its outreach on veterans with serious handicaps, provided priority in scheduling appointments, and recognized in its productivity standards the additional effort required to serve these veterans, the program could serve more veterans with serious employment handicaps. Fewer veterans with lower disability ratings may be served, however, if the same level of resources is maintained.

GAO found that: (1) VA field offices failed to make additional personal contacts with seriously disabled veterans, as VA procedures require; (2) seriously disabled veterans receive the same mailed outreach information package as all disabled veterans; (3) physicians believe that rehabilitation programs benefit seriously disabled veterans and are a successful complement to overall rehabilitation; (4) reasons for the lack of personal contact include long waiting periods, the perception that the VA program is for training rather than placement, the use of other state services, increased demands by program participants, and unwillingness to prioritize based on veterans' disability ratings; (5) seriously handicapped veterans' appointments are handled on a first-come, first-serve basis, and many veterans fail to receive required priority initial counseling and evaluation appointments; (6) VA field offices believe priority scheduling should not be based on higher disability ratings; (7) VA measures productivity by the number of cases employees process, regardless of employment handicap; and (8) because productivity standards do not differentiate between case complexities, and severely handicapped individuals require more complex rehabilitation strategies, field offices may be reluctant to adequately service severely disabled veterans.


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