The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

October 27, 2009
State audit criticizes Veterans Affairs department

091027 BSA seal.jpgState Auditor Elaine Howle says that the California's Department of Veterans Affairs isn't delivering services like it should to the 2.1 million veterans living here. The Bureau of State Audits report outlines these problems:

  • The department sees its role as providing few direct services to address issues California's veterans face, such as homelessness and mental illness. Instead, it relies on other entities to provide such services and its Veterans Services division (Veterans Services) is responsible for collaborating with these different entities.
  • The department has only recently shifted its attention from its primary focus on veterans homes, deciding that Veterans Services should take a more active role in informing veterans about available benefits and coordinating with other entities.
  • One of the department's primary goals for Veterans Services is to increase veterans' participation in federal disability compensation and pension benefits (C&P benefits). However, its ability to meet this goal is hampered by various barriers, including veterans' lack of awareness of the benefits, the complexity of the claims process, and delays at the federal level in processing these claims.
  • Both Veterans Services and the County Veterans Service Officer programs (CVSOs) assist veterans to obtain C&P benefits. However, better coordination with the CVSOs and the use of additional data may enhance Veterans Services' ability to increase veterans' participation in these benefits.
  • The department did not formally assess veterans' needs or include key stakeholders such as the CVSOs in its strategic planning process, nor did it effectively measure its progress toward meeting the goals and objectives identified in its strategic plan.
  • As of March 2009 the CalVet Home Loan program served 12,500 veterans. However, the program is generally not designed to serve homeless veterans or veterans in need of multifamily or transitional housing.

Howle suggests a number of fixes for those problems that are outlined in this executive summary. You can click here to download the 92-PDF-page audit.

Click the link below to read the department's response and link to a 2-year-old report that highlights similar DVA problems:.

The report includes acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Roger Brautigan's Oct. 5 response:

We do note that some of your findings correlate to the findings the Department addressed in our 2007 report to the Legislature titled Strategies to Improve California's Utilization of Veteran Benefits. Both reports will be valuable guidance to improve the effectiveness of our operations within the constraints of the resources we are provided.

You can read that 2007 report by clicking here. All 157 PDF pages of it.

Howle's response to that: Pick up the pace!

We acknowledge on page 17 of our report that the department provided its report to the Legislature in 2007. However, on page 26 of our report, we conclude that the department's Veterans Services division has only recently undertaken activities to better inform veterans about available benefits, and its delay in undertaking many of these activities until late 2008 may have contributed to the low number of veterans applying for and receiving benefits in the State. Thus, although the department may continue to benefit from the guidance in its 2007 report, it is important that the department act in a timely manner to address our recommendations.

IMAGE: bsa.ca.gov

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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