EDD Found Something Else It Can Mess Up: Helping Veterans Find Employment

Monday, November 04, 2013
(photo: Iowa National Guard)

The title of the California State Auditor’s report on how well the employment department helps veterans get jobs barely tips the reader off to the smackdown that is about to follow:

“Employment Development Department (EDD): It Needs to Address Data Issues to Better Evaluate and Improve the Performance of Its Employment Programs for Veterans”

In other words, California is one of the worst states in the country at helping veterans find jobs, according to State Auditor Elaine Howle, and EDD played no small role in achieving that distinction. Howle wrote to the Legislature that the department files its data on time with the U.S. Department of Labor and meets grant requirements to get money. But EDD’s data is lousy and it doesn’t use it “to identify opportunities to improve services to veterans.”

Howle said the “poor quality of the data,” and the way EDD collates it, calls “into question the validity of California’s performance statistics.” The auditor analyzed the department’s Base Wage File, which keeps tabs on veterans’ success and retention rates in the job search, along with earnings, and found a mess.

There were more than 1,400 instances of a Social Security number being associated with 10 or more names. The winner was a Social Security number with 162 different names attached. Those names, which are submitted to the feds indexed by Social Security number, “could lead to inflated measures for wages or for misstatements of who did or did not obtain employment,” according to the report.

The report also noted that an association of Social Security numbers with more than one name in a database can be an indication of identity theft. Although there are certain legal constraints in sharing veterans information with law enforcement, there are ways to convey suspicions of illegality. But the EDD files are so messed up, detecting identity theft is almost a moot point.

The auditor raised questions about the lack of pro-active job assistance initiatives by the EDD and gave this example. Certain federal contractors are required by law to actively recruit veterans and post their openings online at CalJOBS and other employment systems. There were 17,000 positions listed in 2013. EDD referred 1,000 California vets and 28 got jobs.

When the auditor questioned why more veterans weren’t referred and why only 28 made it, EDD couldn’t say because it never collected information on that. 

Reaction to the audit from the Legislature was immediate, according to U-T San Diego. Assembly Speaker John Pérez said he would reintroduce a bill to create a Veterans Workforce Development and Employment Office within the new Labor and Workforce Development Agency and move EDD’s veterans-related jobs stuff to it. The bill passed the Assembly earlier in the year but died in the Senate.

The newspaper quoted a slew of state senators and Assembly members bemoaning EDD’s shoddy practices and calling for reform. EDD’s written defense to the auditor was two-fold: The department has been overwhelmed by the crush of unemployed people during the Great Recession and budget cuts have shredded its operations.

It has been a bad month for EDD. The state Legislature announced it is going to hold hearings on an EDD computer problem in September that botched 300,000 unemployment claims so badly they had to be processed by hand. That was taking so long that EDD was finally ordered to simply pay claims without verifying eligibility, but by then checks for people living on the edge had been delayed for weeks.  

As that debacle unfolded, EDD was stuck on the first of five stages of “loss and grief”: denial and isolation. It skipped over “anger,” except perhaps behind closed doors, tried to “bargain” with its critics, fell into “depression,” and finally, with the state moving on to its next crisis, was left with nothing else but to embrace “acceptance” and prepare for the Legislature’s hearings.

–Ken Broder   


To Learn More:

State Audit: EDD Programs for Veterans Plagued by Problems (by Michael Gardner, U-T San Diego)

State Unemployment Up; Unemployment–Check Computer System Down (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Employment Development Department: It Needs to Address Data Issues to Better Evaluate and Improve the Performance of Its Employment Programs for Veterans (California State Auditor) (pdf)

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