Evaluation Design Options Report

Veterans' Employment and Training Services (VETS) Research Study Design

Published in: United States Department of Labor, Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) (February 2019)

Posted on RAND.org on April 17, 2019

by Jacob Alex Klerman, Andrew Clarkwest, Charles A. Goldman, John W. Trutko

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The Department of Labor's workforce system serves veterans through its network of American Job Centers (AJCs). AJCs are designed to bring together services from multiple programs under one roof. AJCs provide services to veterans both through the Jobs for Veterans State Grants program, which is available only to veterans, as well as through programs that serve the broader population—most notably the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Adult and Dislocated Worker programs and the Wagner-Peyser Employment Services (ES). Evaluation research has the potential to improve DOL's programs providing employment and training services to veterans. This in turn, has the potential to improve veterans' labor market outcomes (e.g.,employment, earnings) as well as broader measures of the economic well-being (e.g., assets, home ownership, homelessness, participation in transfer programs). Recognizing the importance of understanding the veterans served by DOL, their use of workforce services, and their labor market outcomes, DOL's Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) awarded a design contract—the "Veterans' Employment and Training Services Research Study Design"—to Abt Associates and its partners, RAND Corporation and Capital Research Corporation. The objective of this contract is to "develop design recommendations" in response to a series of research questions (RQs) aimed to expand understanding of DOL programs that serve veterans and how those programs might be improved. Among the specified RQs are a set of questions from Section 502 of the Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016 (PL 114-315; hereafter, simply "the statute"), which directs DOL to fund a "longitudinal study of job counseling, training, and placement service for veterans." This report presents options to meet the requirements and "add to the evidence base on veterans' workforce development and employment assistance needs." This report presents options to answer a set of research questions drawn from DOL's solicitation and statute (see Exhibit 1.1). The questions are of four types: Implementation (see RQ1) - describing the services made available to veterans in American Job Centers (AJCs). Descriptive (see RQ4-RQ17)—describing the characteristics of veterans served by AJCs (e.g.,military service history and demographics), their receipt of educational and vocational rehabilitation benefits, utilization and perceptions of AJC services, and outcomes (especially employment and income). These are the questions from statute, which are to be addressed via a longitudinal study, covering a period of at least 5 years. Causal (Impact) (see RQ2)—rigorously capturing how and to what extent AJC services improve veterans' outcomes. Cost/benefit (see RQ3)—estimating how the costs of AJC services compare to the benefits they produce.

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