Our follow‑up audit of the California Department of Veterans Affairs’ (CalVet) progress in addressing issues we raised in our 2009 report revealed the following:
- It still does not fully use available data that would help it focus its outreach efforts, such as outreach data from County Veterans Service Officer programs (CVSOs) and data collected from veterans through a new feature on its website called myCalVet.
- Its auditing of workload activity reports is inadequate and hinders its ability to demonstrate that the funding it distributes to the CVSOs is consistent with their actual workloads.
- Its auditing process does not generally identify errors that can be found only by reviewing the records that are the basis of the reports.
- Its procedures for conducting audits are not documented, thereby reducing assurance that audits are conducted correctly and completely.
- It does not have a process to ensure that the CVSOs are accurately approving applications for the College Fee Waiver Program, which places the State at risk of waiving college fees erroneously.
Results in Brief
The California Department of Veterans Affairs’ (CalVet) Veterans Services Division (Veterans Services) is responsible for helping California’s veterans and their families receive the benefits and services they need. To meet this responsibility, Veterans Services largely works with local County Veterans Service Officer programs (CVSOs) that are funded in part with state money. In October 2009 the California State Auditor issued a report that highlighted shortcomings in the information CalVet required the CVSOs to report to Veterans Services, particularly as it relates to the number of claims filed for federal disability compensation and pension benefits and information on the CVSOs’ outreach activities.1 Further, the 2009 report concluded that Veterans Services was not performing audits of the CVSOs’ workload activity reports, which contain data that are the basis for the funding CalVet disburses to the CVSOs, or verifying the appropriateness of college fee waivers, as required by state law.
In this audit, we followed up on key issues included in our 2009 report and found that Veterans Services’ efforts have fallen short of fully addressing these issues, which we identified more than five years ago. For example, Veterans Services still does not fully use available data that would help it focus its outreach efforts, such as outreach data from the CVSOs and data collected from veterans through a new feature on its website called myCalVet. Although myCalVet has been operational for over a year and contains a variety of information about veterans who registered on it, such as their age, physical location, and how they learned about the website, Veterans Services has not used information collected by myCalVet to develop targeted outreach campaigns or to identify how veterans connect with myCalVet.
Further, additional inadequacies in its auditing of workload activity reports hinder Veterans Services’ ability to demonstrate that the funding it distributes to the CVSOs is consistent with their actual workloads. For example, the process Veterans Services uses to audit the workload activity reports does not generally identify errors that can be found only by reviewing the records that are the basis of the reports. In addition, Veterans Services does not have documented procedures for conducting the audits, thereby reducing assurance that its staff will conduct the audits correctly and completely.
Finally, Veterans Services still lacks adequate oversight of the College Fee Waiver Program, through which veterans’ dependents who meet eligibility requirements may have some fees waived if they attend California public postsecondary education institutions. Although state regulation specifies that Veterans Services is to review and determine the eligibility and qualifications for each applicant for this educational benefit, according to the CalVet deputy secretary for Veterans Services, the primary responsibility for making these determinations for applicants has been delegated to the CVSOs. However, Veterans Services does not have a process to ensure that the CVSOs are accurately approving these applications. As we noted in our 2009 report, such weak oversight places the State at risk of waiving college fees erroneously.
By fully implementing the recommendations from our 2009 report and the additional recommendations we present in this report, Veterans Services’ outreach to veterans would be improved and it would better ensure that its allocations to the CVSOs accurately reflect their workloads.
CalVet should fully implement the recommendations from our 2009 report.
Veterans Services should develop and implement a plan by December 31, 2015, to routinely analyze and use myCalVet data to identify trends in the services veterans and their families indicate they are most interested in and incorporate the results of such analyses into its outreach efforts.
To determine the most successful methods for informing veterans and their families about the myCalVet website, and to increase the number of registered users, Veterans Services should evaluate myCalVet data to identify which marketing methods were most effective in informing registered users about the website. Veterans Services should complete this analysis on an annual basis, beginning no later than December 31, 2015.
To ensure that the funding it distributes to the CVSOs is consistent with their actual workloads, Veterans Services should, by December 31, 2015, develop and implement procedures to more thoroughly review the accuracy of the data in the CVSOs’ workload activity reports by reviewing the records that are the basis of the reports.
To ensure correctness, completeness, and consistency in its audits of the CVSOs’ workload activity reports, Veterans Services should formalize and document its audit procedures for reviewing these reports by December 31, 2015.
To improve its oversight of the College Fee Waiver Program and ensure that the CVSOs are not erroneously waiving college fees, Veterans Services should develop and implement a review process for college fee waivers by December 31, 2015.
CalVet states that it recognizes the audit recommendations and is dedicated to achieving their implementation, and it outlined certain actions it has taken, or plans to take, to implement them.
1 California Department of Veterans Affairs: Although It Has Begun to Increase Its Outreach Efforts and to Coordinate With Other Entities, It Needs to Improve Its Strategic Planning Process, and Its CalVet Home Loan Program Is Not Designed to Address the Housing Needs of Some Veterans (Report 2009‑108, October 2009). Go back to text