Providing employment and training services for veterans has become an increasingly important policy focus in recent years as the number of service members returning from Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom has increased. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) places special emphasis on serving veterans through numerous programs and offices. One of the ways in which DOL serves veterans is by providing priority of service (POS) to veterans and eligible spouses in the receipt of employment, training, and placement services. Recently, POS was included as a required provision of the Jobs for Veterans Act (JVA) of 2002.
In July 2011, ETA contracted with Mathematica Policy Research to assess the workforce system’s implementation of the POS provision of JVA and examine the status of current POS implementation efforts. Sufficient time has now passed since the JVA took effect and state and local workforce agencies received implementation guidance to create and modify programs, hire and train necessary staff, and learn from their initial efforts. The central question underlying this study relates to whether the guidance that the Labor Department has provided to the workforce development system has been sufficient and effective in implementing POS. Specific areas of interest in this study include: 1) identification of methods used for determining eligibility of veterans and spouses for POS; 2) POS procedures after veterans and eligible spouses are identified; and 3) service provision under POS.
This study is based on site visits and telephone discussions with American Job Center (AJC) staff, discussions with veterans’ service organization representatives, and focus groups with veterans and eligible spouses.
One of the key findings from the report include that some AJC staff rely more on state or locally developed guidance on POS than on the Federal guidance. However, Federal guidance has been useful in providing context to changes occurring in POS and leading to the creation of state and local level guidance. Another finding is that veterans who have been separated more than two or three years ago were not aware of POS as much as those who were recently separated. Similarly, the first-time customers also had low awareness of POS. To combat low awareness and increase participation, all sites reported taking veterans and eligible spouses at their word about their status and providing POS on that basis until they attempt to enroll in some kind of activity beyond core services.