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.