Description of the Program
For many veterans, the transition from army to civilian life is fraught with difficulties, and they need help from the community, particularly in a job search. One such program is the Veterans Readiness and Employment Program, also known as the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program or Chapter 31. The current variation of the name accurately reflects the nature of the initiative’s actions and the primary purpose (Absher, 2021).
An essential aspect of the program’s work is that the decision to apply specific measures is usually based on the results of an appointment with a consultant, except for cases of severe injuries during active-duty service (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2021). This measure allows for a more personal approach to the veterans, taking into account their needs.
To define one of the Five tracks for the veteran, consultants conduct his assessment, including a medical examination. The procedure helps determine the participant’s skills, abilities, needs, and wishes and form a subsequent rehabilitation plan.
All follow-up actions aim to achieve the goal of one of the Five tracks and may include training in job search and research writing skills, rehabilitation services, non-paid work experiences, training and mentoring services, and other opportunities.
To arrange a meeting with a consultant and undergo assessment, a veteran must meet the requirements for fair dismissal and have a service-connected disability of at least 10%.
However, if, according to the results of the assessments, a person does not fit the VR&E criteria, the specialists of this initiative take action to help the person find alternative resources that are suitable for them.
Veterans Readiness and Employment is a government program and receives funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs appropriations (Collins, 2021).
The received support is divided into:
- Mandatory aimed at paying for services, namely the cost of training participants, daily payments to them, and other aspects.
- Discretionary resources include program employees’ salaries and other organizational costs.
Employees assess and analyze veterans’ situations, choose one of the Five Tracks approaches and draw up a plan of measures, including training, consultations, rehabilitation complexes, and other activities. These outputs aim to improve the lives of veterans, who are the only possible participants in this program.
In the short term, veterans will find out if they can get help within the program, or employees should find another one through an assessment. In the medium term, efforts are being made to implement the plan created after the consultation – participants undergo training and establish contacts with employers. Finally, long-term outcomes mean complete rehabilitation, including receiving the necessary medical care, consultations, support, and a stable job. As a result of passing VR&E, veterans must be fully reintegrated into society and live comfortably, providing for themselves and their loved ones.
The state nature of the program helps to receive resources and not seek additional funding, unlike non-profit and private companies. Moreover, this feature also determines the large scale of the program, attracting more veterans and professional employees.
Since candidates for this program can be people who graduated from service 12 years ago, a reasonably large base of people who need help is formulated. In addition, veterans who defended their homeland are more likely to trust government programs than outside organizations. Finally, the current situation with the spread of COVID-19 makes the work of private entities more complex, while the state has the resources to keep the initiative running.
The problem the program intends to solve is many veterans who have difficulties with rehabilitation and integration into society, in particular, job search, financial support, receipt of honey, and other critical problems after service. Moreover, the existing epidemiological condition affects the social and the economic sphere, in connection with which prices rise and the number of unemployed people increases.
Following the program’s goals, its priority is to help veterans using an individual approach. This initiative was created to eliminate the existing service-connected disabilities or at least allow people with these problems to become capable members of society.
Evaluation Questions of Interest
Questions focus on the very process of Veterans Readiness and Employment Program functioning, exploring the current implementation and future opportunities. The questions were compiled using the criteria of utilization-focused research proposed by Patton (2012).
Program implementation questions
- Are there enough activities for the target audience?
- Are the main objectives of the program being achieved during the implementation of the program? If not, why not?
- What qualifications do program staff need to work effectively? Does the team have sufficient education and training to interact with the target audience and achieve their goals?
- How do participants in the program interact with and respond to it? What factors are noted as valuable and essential, and what are causing adverse reactions?
Opportunities for further development
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the program?
- Have there been any activities in recent years to improve the services provided? Are there any similar events planned?
- Is there a need to improve any individual VR&E components in the opinion of the program staff? In the opinion of the participants and the target audience?
- Is there actual room for further improvement of the program at this time? How do staff and participants think they can be provided?
Description of Intended Users
The most relevant stakeholders are those interested in the evaluation process and its results – participants, performers, and decision-makers. (“Identifying and determining involvement,” n.d.).
Veterans group includes those who interact with program representatives and receive help now and those who will participate in the future. They are interested in evaluation, as understanding the program and its potential improvement will bring significant benefits to participants and their colleagues. Veterans will take part in an interview, where they will talk about their experience in the initiative. After the interview, contact will be maintained to provide additional information about the evaluation results.
Employees are also a critical group for evaluation – they know all the program workflows and will better present potential areas for improvement, benefits, and challenges. As with veterans, maintaining contact after interviews, they will receive additional information about the assessment results and will be able to use it for performance improvement.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is most interested in evaluating the implementation of the Veterans Readiness and Employment Program and has the most tools to improve the program. They will be informed in advance of the evaluation and receive its results once the study is completed.
Description of the Data and Methods to be Used
The evaluation will focus on the period from the beginning of 2019 to the end of 2021 to get up-to-date information and track whether the name change affected the program’s activities. Thus, within the analysis of documents, the official papers of the Veterans Readiness and Employment Program for the specified period will be analyzed, and qualitative and quantitative information will be obtained. Questionnaires and interviews will include participants and employees working in the initiative from 2019 to 2021 to get qualitative data.
Compliance with ethical standards and principles of personal data confidentiality will be observed when receiving information. Even though interviews, unlike surveys, will be conducted with specific people, their identities will remain classified to avoid possible leaks of personal data. Ethical compliance is essential for evaluation and its subsequent use.
Despite the advantages presented, each of the methods has some drawbacks. For example, documents provide only official information, and the survey may lack high-quality answers. For these reasons, sharing multiple methods at the same time will benefit the study. Moreover, studies show that combining different methods allows for clearer triangulation and more detailed evaluation (Taylor-Powell & Steele, 1996).
Absher, J. (2021). Veterans readiness (vocational rehabilitation) and employment. Military.com. Web.
Collins, B. (2021). Veterans’ benefits: The Veteran Readiness and Employment Program. Congressional Research Service. Web.
Identifying and determining involvement of stakeholders. (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web.
Patton, M. Q. (2012). Essentials of utilization-focused evaluation. Sage.
Perkins, D.F., Aronson, K.R., Morgan, N.R., Bleser, J.A., Vogt, D., Copeland, L.A., Finley, E.P., & Gilman, C. (2020). Veterans’ use of programs and services as they transition to civilian life: Baseline assessment for the Veteran Metrics Initiative. Journal of Social Service Research, 46(2), 241-255. Web.
Taylor-Powell, E., & Steele, S. (1996). Collecting evaluation data: An overview of sources and methods. University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service. Web.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2021). How to apply for Veteran Readiness and Employment. Web.