Training program

Will VA continue its popular technology training program?

Time is running out to assess whether U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials should pursue a promising pilot program made for helping veterans learn high-tech skillssaid a government watchdog this week.

The Technology Employment Education Course for Veterans program launched in 2019 as a five-year pilot project. Originally planned as a $15 million effort, lawmakers have added an additional $110 million to the program in recent years due to increased demand.

VET TEC is open to veterans who still have some GI Bill eligibility who are seeking training in high-tech fields such as computer programming and information science. Over the past three years, VA officials said nearly 7,000 veterans have enrolled in the program, about two-thirds of whom have found employment after completion.

A Office of Government Accountability Study released this week found that these results are unclear because VA uses different methods to calculate employment than other federal standards. By this measure, only about 46% of participants found employment.

“As a result, VA lacks sufficient information to compare VET TEC to other programs or to assess the program’s effectiveness in putting veterans into employment,” the report said.

GAO officials have lamented shortcomings in the department’s VET TEC data collection in the past, including a similar report last spring.

The report says these issues need to be addressed quickly to determine whether Congress and VA should push to make the pilot program permanent. The five-year deadline for VET TEC is due to expire in 2024.

The GAO findings note several positive aspects of the program, including a high completion rate (less than 17% of enrollees did not complete their work) and high diversity rates among participants (63% were from minority groups non-white and 84% had a service-related disability).

Without better data on veterans’ employment rates, “assessment and evaluation of VET TEC by the end of the pilot will likely be difficult for VA,” the report said.

In response to the GAO report, VA officials said they agreed in principle with the report’s aims, but were weighing the best path forward for changes. They expect to release their own findings on the results of the program by the end of December.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are pushing to make the program permanent, though some of those questions about the results remain unclear. VA officials in the past have said they would support the idea, given the results they’ve seen so far.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, DC since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned him numerous accolades, including a 2009 Polk Award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism Award, and the VFW News Media Award.