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California State Auditor Report Number: 2015-505

Follow-Up—California Department of Veterans Affairs
Better Collection and Use of Data Would Improve Its Outreach Efforts, and It Needs to Strengthen Its Oversight of County Veterans Service Officer Programs



More veterans live in California than in any other state. As of September 2014 the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimated that approximately 1.9 million veterans resided in the State, representing approximately 8 percent of the total estimated national veteran population. State law authorizes the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) to assist these veterans and their families in presenting their claims for federal benefits to the VA. The lead entity in CalVet for connecting veterans with the services they need is the Veterans Services Division (Veterans Services). In addition, CalVet relies on eight regional local interagency network coordinators (LINCs) and County Veterans Service Officer programs (CVSOs) to reach veterans and assist them with their claims. According to a 2013 CalVet report to the Legislature, LINCs work with the CVSOs to contact, connect with, and communicate with veterans, and they play an integral role in many aspects of helping veterans apply for and receive benefits and services.2 The CVSOs play a key role in ensuring that veterans and their families are aware of the benefits they are eligible for, and that they apply for and receive them, including federal disability compensation and veterans pension benefits (C&P benefits), which are defined in the text box.

As authorized by state law, CalVet compensates the CVSOs for some costs associated with presenting and pursuing veterans’ claims for benefits, including C&P benefits. Approximately $2.6 million from the State’s General Fund was budgeted for this purpose in fiscal year 2013–14. In order for a CVSO to receive its share of these funds from CalVet, it must submit a workload activity report biannually that includes the number of claims it filed that have a reasonable chance of obtaining a monetary or medical benefit for veterans or their families. State regulation requires CalVet to authenticate the CVSOs’ reported workload activities through audits and use the audit findings to allocate funding to the CVSOs.

Compensation and Pension Benefits

Disability compensation:

A monetary benefit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pays to veterans it determines to be disabled by an injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated during active military service.

Veterans pension:

A monetary benefit the VA pays to low‑income wartime veterans who meet one or more of the following criteria:

Statewide Children’s Residential Program Office

Oversees county-licensed foster family homes.

Sources: The VA’s website, Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents, and Survivors, Chapter 2: Service‑Connected Disabilities and Chapter 4: VA Pensions.

Partly due to a concern that the rate at which California’s veterans participated in C&P benefits was lower than the national average, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee requested in 2009 that the California State Auditor (state auditor) review CalVet’s efforts to address the needs of the State’s veterans. In October 2009 the state auditor reported that although CalVet has the requisite authority, it did not require the CVSOs to provide Veterans Services with information about the number of claims veterans filed for C&P benefits or a description of their outreach activities.3 In addition, we recommended that Veterans Services use veterans’ demographic data, such as the data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, and the information it planned to obtain from the CVSOs through its electronic case management system, to focus its outreach and coordination efforts on those CVSOs with the highest potential for increasing the State’s rate of participation in C&P benefits. Without this information, we concluded that Veterans Services was hindered in its efforts to increase veterans’ participation in obtaining these benefits. Further, we noted in the 2009 report that Veterans Services was not auditing the CVSOs’ workload activity reports in accordance with state law. To address these shortcomings, we made three recommendations to CalVet; these recommendations are presented in Table 2 in the Scope and Methodology section of this report. Additionally, in our 2009 report we identified several other areas for improvement, such as CalVet’s Home Loan program, and made another 11 recommendations to CalVet that we determined were fully implemented by July 2013.

Since the issuance of our 2009 report, CalVet has taken steps to increase veterans’ participation in C&P benefits. For example, according to the manager of field operations for Veterans Services, CalVet received funding in 2010 to establish the regional LINCs that, as described in the Introduction, help connect veterans with available benefits and services. The manager of field operations indicated that LINCs report their activities to CalVet on a monthly basis, including meetings with veterans and outreach activities, and Veterans Services analyzes this information to determine the areas of interest to veterans that may require additional outreach. Further, to better connect with veterans, CalVet has entered into formal agreements with other state entities, including the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (Corrections). Specifically, in 2010 CalVet entered an agreement with DMV to obtain contact information for its customers who self‑identified as veterans. According to Veterans Services’ chief of operations, in 2014 DMV provided CalVet with contact information for roughly 60,000 veterans.

For placement in group homes and in specialized treatment facilities, Social Services requires a written justification to be included in the child’s case plan. As we described in our October 2011 audit report, the payment rates to foster family agencies are much higher than those for licensed foster homes because these rates assume an elevated level of treatment needs for a child. However, Social Services does not require counties to document these treatment needs in children’s case plans before placing the children with foster family agencies. In that same audit report, we also expressed concern about the dramatic growth in counties’ use of foster family agencies and the lack of support to justify the payment rate that Social Services established for these agencies.

Further, through CalVet’s recent agreement with Corrections, that agency is to identify veterans in its correctional facilities and provide CalVet with access to this information so that CalVet can provide assistance and support to newly released and paroled veterans. CalVet will refer these veterans to their local CVSO in order to help them receive their VA benefits, including C&P benefits. As of June 2015 Corrections had provided CalVet with information for nearly 6,000 veterans incarcerated in the State’s correctional facilities.

Although California’s veteran population decreased from 2004 to 2013, the proportion of veterans receiving C&P benefits has steadily increased—from a low of 10.5 percent in 2004 to a high of 17.5 percent in 2013, as shown in Table 1. Further, California’s veteran participation rate nearly aligned with the national average of 17.6 percent in 2013, while in 2004 it was less than the national average of 11.7 percent. However, California’s participation rate is significantly lower than that of some other states with large veteran populations, such as Texas and Florida, which in 2013 had participation rates of 21.7 percent and 19.4 percent, respectively. CalVet officials told us that one factor contributing to this disparity is that both Texas and Florida have more veterans service representatives, which include state employees and CVSO staff, relative to their veteran populations than does California.

Table 1
California Veterans That Received U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Disability Compensation and Veterans Pension Benefits in Federal Fiscal Years 2004 Through 2013
Federal Fiscal Year Estimated Veteran Population
Veterans Receiving Compensation and Pension benefits (C&P Benefits)* Estimated C&P Benefits Paid to Veterans* Veterans’ Rate of Participation in C&P Benefits
2004 2,310,968 243,097 $1,899,522,530 10.5%
2005 2,257,130 247,760 2,137,836,347 11.0
2006 2,203,727 251,547 2,282,215,728 11.4
2007 2,203,727 259,447 2,454,772,368 11.8
2008 2,078,267 267,318 2,631,871,547 12.9
2009 2,025,934 276,373 2,935,632,330 13.6
2010 1,971,959 288,970 3,132,419,928 14.7
2011 1,918,073 300,290 3,338,121,689 15.7
2012 1,844,803 315,368 3,741,766,309 17.1
2013 1,942,775 339,747 4,297,363,616 17.5

Sources: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Benefits Administration’s Annual Benefits reports, federal fiscal years 2004 through 2013.

Note: We did not assess the reliability of the background data presented in this table.

* Amounts are presented as of the end of each respective federal fiscal year, which runs from October 1 through September 30.

The Veterans Benefits Administration reported the same estimated veteran population in its 2006 and 2007 Annual Benefits reports.

Scope and Methodology

Table 2 presents the status of selected recommendations from our 2009 report that we followed up on during this audit. In its responses regarding the status of its implementation of the three recommendations after the 2009 report was published, CalVet asserted that it had fully implemented all three. Based on our review of documentation provided by CalVet at that time—such as reports from CalVet’s electronic case management system demonstrating that the CVSOs were reporting the number of veterans’ C&P benefits claims to CalVet, documents demonstrating CalVet’s efforts to launch a function on its website to provide veterans with easier access to information about benefits, evidence that CalVet was using demographic data to inform outreach, and documents regarding CalVet’s audit of CVSO workload activity reports—we assessed the recommendations as fully implemented. However, during this follow‑up audit, which entailed a more in‑depth review of actions CalVet has taken to address these recommendations, we found that CalVet has not fully implemented them.

Table 2
Status of Actions Taken in Response to Selected Recommendations in the California State Auditor’s Report 2009‑108 and the Methods Used to Assess Their Status
Recommendation Method Status of Recommendation
1 To ensure that it has the information necessary to track progress in increasing veterans’ participation in federal disability compensation and pension benefits (C&P benefits), and to identify where and how best to focus its outreach and coordination efforts, the Veterans Services Division (Veterans Services) should require the County Veterans Service Officer programs (CVSOs) to submit information on the number of claims filed for C&P benefits and information on their outreach activities.
  • Reviewed Veterans Services’ procedure manual and applicable laws and regulations regarding the funding process for the CVSOs.
  • Reviewed a selection of reports generated by the California Department of Veterans Affairs’ (CalVet) electronic case management system, VetPro, during 2013 and 2014.
  • Interviewed key officials from Veterans Services.
Partially Implemented
2 As Veterans Services expands its efforts to increase veterans’ participation in C&P benefits, it should use veterans’ demographic information, such as that available through the U.S. Census Bureau, and the information it plans to obtain from the CVSOs using its electronic case management system, to focus its outreach and coordination efforts on those counties with the highest potential for increasing the State’s rate of participation in C&P benefits.
  • Interviewed key staff regarding Veterans Services’ use of demographic information and information from VetPro, and obtained related supporting documentation.
  • Reviewed demographic and other information about veterans that they provide CalVet through its website to identify data that may be useful to aid Veterans Services in focusing its outreach activities.
  • Interviewed the deputy secretary for the CalVet Women Veterans Affairs Division to identify how it has used myCalVet to inform its outreach activities.
Partially Implemented
3 Veterans Services should continue its efforts to pursue its electronic case management system to enable it to monitor the quantity and quality of claims processed by the CVSOs, and ensure it meets legal requirements regarding auditing CVSO workload reports and verifying the appropriateness of college fee waivers.
  • Interviewed key staff regarding Veterans Services’ implementation and use of VetPro, including how Veterans Services uses it to audit the CVSOs’ workload activity reports and college fee waivers.
  • Assessed its process for conducting audits of workload activity reports.
Partially Implemented

Sources: Selected recommendations made in the report by the California State Auditor (state auditor) titled 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); analysis of information and documentation identified in the table column titled Method; and the state auditor’s analysis of CalVet’s actions related to the recommendations.


2 This report is titled Child Welfare Services: California Can and Must Provide Better Protection and Support for Abused and Neglected Children, Report 2011‑101.1. Go back to text

3 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

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