Job Front: California auditor blasts agency’s aid for veterans

The state’s Employment Development Department has struggled to meet the needs of California’s veterans, has consistently missed federally established employment goals and has little idea of whether its programs even help vets find work, according to a California State Auditor’s report highly critical of the agency.

The report, released Oct. 31, found data issues were at the heart of the EDD’s shortcomings, saying the agency failed to analyze information that shows how certain groups of veterans are faring in their job search as opposed to other job seekers. The report said the agency did not fully measure the success of EDD programs, including its Veterans Employment-Related Assistance Program – the network of resource centers and veterans’ groups that provide training and employment services.

Among the report’s findings and recommendations:

• The EDD doesn’t monitor results of actions aimed at improving veterans’ services, thus it doesn’t know if the actions are effective.

• The EDD should look more closely at how veterans within different demographic groups succeed or struggle to find work in order to “make more informed program decisions.”

• Data the EDD provides to the U.S. Department of Labor is unreliable because multiple veterans’ names are linked to single Social Security numbers.

The auditor’s report was released ahead of Veterans Day and one of EDD’s signature events for veterans, its “Honor a Hero, Hire a Vet” job fair at McClellan Park in North Highlands, held Thursday. The career events – 11 in all – are scheduled throughout the year across California.

“The report concludes that the department has consistently failed to meet certain goals the U.S. Department of Labor established to assist veterans with finding employment,” State Auditor Elaine Howle wrote in a letter introducing the report. Howle added that EDD appeared to focus more on complying with federal grant-management rules rather than using its resources to figure out how to improve its services for veterans.

The EDD is “fully committed” to helping veterans find employment, Sharon Hilliard, the agency’s chief deputy director, wrote in response to the audit. She said the EDD has consistently acted to improve its services “where it has the resources and authority to do so.”

That’s the dilemma, contend EDD officials who say they have been hamstrung by a lack of state funding to help meet federal employment goals.

“The EDD receives very limited resources to administer its veteran-related services,” Hilliard said in her response, citing the Labor Department’s authorization of just three positions to administer the state’s $18 million Jobs for Veterans grant program and its 200 staffers.

The agency also says state auditors failed to consider the depth of the recession in California, the influx of service members returning from duty, and the economy’s continuing impact on the EDD and the nation’s largest veteran population.

“The economic dynamics of the state during the Great Recession can’t be discounted from the perspective of their impact on EDD’s performance,” department spokeswoman Patti Roberts said in an email.

Nearly 2 million veterans live in California, the most in the nation, according to the EDD. Another 40,000 annually are expected to return to California over the next few years, according to CalVet, the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs.

Indeed, although the state’s unemployment rate has improved, dipping into the single digits, many California veterans continue to struggle to find work. EDD officials say young veterans’ needs as they transition out of the military and into civilian jobs are particularly acute.

The 2012 jobless rate for California veterans 20 to 24 years old was 37.1 percent, according to EDD figures, the latest available. That’s more than double that of nonveterans the same age, though employment officials say the overall rate of unemployed veterans is now consistently lower than the civilian population.

“California has the largest number of separating veterans than any other state,” Roberts said. “So we are facing the highest unemployment rate, highest job loss, low job creation and a wave of separating veterans all converging at the same time.”

EDD officials say they are helping veterans build job-seeking skills such as networking, interviewing and résumé writing. In addition, they say EDD staff themselves are are developing human resources and career coaching skills by teaming with the local Sacramento Area Human Resource Association. The agency also plans to develop a program in 2014 to help veterans transition into civilian careers.

Find the state auditor’s report at www.bsa.ca.gov/reports/recent

Let us hear from you

Is your company hiring? Is your organization hosting a career fair? Is your campus rolling out a job-skills program? Contact Job Front at dvsmith@sacbee.com.