TAP Issues 2018-01-14T17:43:26-05:00

Priority Issues

The following are three priority issues impeding successful TAP outcomes. Currently, the DOD, VA, DOL, and collaborating agencies, do not consolidate their data on TAP, and the data Congress does receive is not an accurate representation of the Veteran demographic. TSMs and their families, recipients of TAP services, remain uninformed of agency progress, due to this lack of information sharing. As a result, legislation is necessary, regardless of internal initiatives to reform TAP already underway. Mandating a stronger set of data is necessary to measure successes and areas needing improvement within TAP. The infrastructure exists, so “burdening” the DOD with this responsibility is not sufficient response. By following a servicemember’s trajectory within the military, upon transitioning, their data can be connected to VA and DOL datasets. Sharing this intel sooner can alleviate bottlenecks and create a more seamless transition for TSMs. Data points, such as average income or length of unemployment post service, are necessary in pinpointing which branch and installations meet standards, and, conversely, have personnel and implementation issues. With the DOD leading this innovative approach, it will meet the growing demand for transparency and accountability.

More than six years post- VOW Act, the DOD is failing to deliver impactful TAP services because servicemembers are still being released back into society without the tools needed to find gainful employment and continue positive contribution to society. Demonstrative of the DOD’s failure are the Veteran suicide, Veteran unemployment, and Veteran homelessness rates. While the VA and DOL implement programs to reduce these rates post-service, it is from within the DOD that these issues originate, and where prevention starts with greater oversight from the TVPO. A myriad of research groups and government officials agree that TAP requires further reform.

According to Kristy N. Kamarck’s overview of TAP, published March 15, 2017 by the Congressional Research Service, the following questions remain at large:

• Does TAP enable an adequate handoff to the VA and other agencies/community organizations? Can more be done to improve coordination (e.g., improved data- sharing)?
• Do current outcome metrics reflect actual program impact and is there transparency in reporting?
• Does the program provide adequate information and resources for certain groups of individuals (e.g., female Veterans, Veterans with disabilities and/or mental health needs)?
• Is the timing and venue for TAP appropriate? Should it be offered in an off-installation setting and/or expanded to those Veterans who have already left the service?

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin estimates approximately 265,000 servicemembers transition annually, and the DOD reported a 95% compliance rate with workshop attendance for FY2015, yet these metrics inaccurately reflect program impact and transparency in reporting.

According to the November 2017 GAO report:

“Transitioning Veterans: DOD Needs to Improve Performance Reporting and Monitoring for the Transition Assistance Program,” the GAO finds that DOD’s public reports lack transparency, and are insufficiently reliable for its analysis of participation in TAP classes and attainment of Career Readiness Standards. DOD has not developed guidance or quality standards. DOD does not yet monitor compliance, thus does not know the extent to which federal mandates are being met within the commands they oversee.

DOD also asserts that over 100,000 users have accessed the virtual curriculum since it was launched in October of 2013. To what extent these users interacted with the interface is unknown, with surveys on user experience and outcomes nonexistent. According to this most recent GAO report released last winter, the percentage of servicemembers who attended TAP courses in a classroom versus online is not tracked by DOD.

Transparency issues are evident in the lack of credible performance measures provided by DOD on TAP. Key findings from the November 2017 GAO Report are as follows:

• DOD lacks TAP data for 48 percent of eligible National Guard and Reserve members.
• DOD is missing data for 12 percent (19,802) of TSMs who were not members of the National Guard and Reserve.
• Resulting participation rate for Guard and Reserve members may have been as low as 47 percent instead of 94 percent, which DOD publicly reported in fiscal year 2016.
• Participation rates were lower for the Marine Corps and Navy than for the other services. The Marine Corps has the highest levels of missing data.
• Less than 50 percent of all eligible TSMs completed TAP on time—90 days or more before separation.
• Fewer than 15 percent of TSMs took additional 2-day classes.
• More than 53 percent of TSMs did not complete Capstone (i.e., verifying Career Readiness Standards were met) at least 90 days before their scheduled separation date.

A recommendation of the November 2017 GAO report is that DOD should allow unit commanders and high-level commanders access to TAP performance measures to help ensure the specific units they oversee are compliant with all TAP requirements. The DOD partially concurred with this recommendation, citing a Service level responsibility (i.e. transition staff within Army Solder for Life TAP have the capability to share such information with commanders). The report uncovered the following statistics, which demonstrate systemic compliance issues arising from military culture, one in which the TSM remains in a lose-lose situation:

• TAP managers at three installations expressed concern that online TAP may be overused and that commanders at their installation have tried to push online training.
• TAP staff and servicemembers at five installations said TSMs were not always released from their duties to engage in TAP.
• Some TSMs interviewed said they were ordered to work a night shift after attending TAP class during the day.
• Of those who participated in TAP Core Curriculum, 43% of TSMs felt they could not leave their duties.
• Of those who participated in TAP Core Curriculum, 31% of TSMs were not sufficiently aware of the need to attend TAP or the existence of the 2-day track.
• Of those who participated in TAP Core Curriculum, 30% of TSMs lacked support from direct supervisors, 27% lacked support from unit commanders, and 16% lacked support from battalion/ squadron commanders.