Watchdog praises VA for education on new GI bill

The Veterans Affairs Department generally does a good job informing service members of their education benefits, but could improve its outreach to disabled vets, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

Awareness of the tuition benefits available to the military, particularly those under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, is high among service members and veterans in the general population, GAO found through interviews. But the watchdog recommended VA develop performance measures to better track the actual efficacy of its outreach. The program that handles education and the one for vocational rehabilitation and employment for disabled vets need to coordinate their efforts to inform disabled vets of their assistance options, GAO recommended.

"Education program officials told us that they do not conduct targeted outreach to individuals with disabilities because eligibility for VA education benefits is based on length of military service, rather than disability status," the report said.

The department conducts outreach on education assistance through marketing and ad campaigns, information on its website and social media, a call center and briefings offered to service members at the time of their separation from the military.

VA currently has four active education benefit programs for service members and veterans -- the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty, the Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve and the Reserve Educational Assistance Program. Individuals might be eligible for more than one of these programs, and disabled vets also are eligible to receive education and job counseling benefits through the department's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program. But if disabled vets choose to obtain assistance through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, they are ineligible for benefits under the vocational program.

The education program and the vocational rehabilitation and employment program typically conduct separate outreach, but VA is working to improve coordination between the two, GAO said. The agency reported that 84 percent of the school certifying officials it interviewed -- those who certify veteran enrollment status -- had not received training on working with service members and veterans with disabilities, and VA told the watchdog that the education program had not developed guidance or training for those officials on how to better serve that constituency.

VA began providing benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill in August 2009; in fiscal 2010, it doled out $9 billion in education benefits, mostly under that program, to more than 700,000 service members. Because of the spike in applications and the increased complexity of the new process, the department initially had a tough time processing claims quickly. The benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill are highly individualized and based on factors such as length of service and the location of the schools enrollees attend.

School officials and state agencies also told GAO that they'd like more guidance from VA on carrying out the mandates of the new GI bill, in particular certifying enrollment and providing accurate information for processing claims. In addition, they said some vets might have difficulty determining which benefits are right for them, how to calculate their benefit amount and the effect of the Post-9/11 GI bill on other forms of assistance.

GAO also recommended VA improve its oversight of schools and state agencies involved in providing education benefits to service members and vets.

The department generally agreed with GAO's recommendations and is in the process of implementing them, according to the report.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.