The number of Veterans who require assistance to live independently and achieve gainful employment is expected to increase exponentially over the coming years. This increase is due to the inflow of Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as an overall aging Veteran population from Vietnam and other conflicts. The Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) Veterans Rehabilitation & Employment Independent Living (VR&E IL), the organization providing independent living services to these most severely disabled Veterans, contracted Altarum Institute to help them prepare to meet this increase in demand in services and ensure that this most vulnerable population of Veterans receives the highest level of service.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Independent Living program, created in 1996, is one of five employment and independence support programs available for returning veterans. While the other four programs have the objective of preparing and assisting Veterans in gaining employment or other benefits, VR&E IL focuses on working with local communities and support services to help the Veteran live independently.

Altarum applied a wide range of services—including business process reengineering, strategic planning, change management, customer service and market research, and metric and measurement development—to analyze the current state of operations, develop a detailed picture of the existing process, and build a vision for greater effectiveness and efficiency. Altarum’s work included

  • Literature reviews,
  • Interviews with more than 100 internal and external stakeholders (Veterans, Congress, VR&E IL staff, subject matter experts, Veterans service organizations, and other supporting federal programs),
  • Focus groups with Veterans and caregivers,
  • Site visits to four VBA regional offices,
  • A survey of more than 100 regional office personnel, and
  • Benchmarking best practices from state and commercial VR&E IL programs.

Recommendations based on this analysis included redefining the scope of VR&E IL, improving and streamlining service delivery, developing new skill sets and workforce development for VR&E IL counselors, refining tools and technology, and strengthening community and partner relationships. Based on these recommendations, Altarum developed a transformation plan to implement the approved recommendations that improved service delivery across the 53 regional offices, reducing the amount of time that it takes to provide Veterans with VR&E IL services and increasing the program’s ability to serve more Veterans.