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Improving the labor market outcomes of U.S. veterans: The long-run effect of the Transition Assistance Program (Li 2018)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Li, X. (2018). Improving the labor market outcomes of U.S. veterans: The long-run effect of the Transition Assistance Program. New York: Syracuse University.

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact the Transitional Assistance Program (TAP) had on outcomes related to employment, earnings, and education.
  • The study used statistical models to compare veterans who had been offered and received TAP to veterans who were not offered TAP. Data came from the veterans supplement of the Current Population Survey for survey years 1995 to 2010.
  • The study found positive associations between participation in TAP and employment, earnings, and education.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to TAP; other factors are likely to have contributed to the findings.

Intervention Examined

The Transitional Assistance Program

Features of the Intervention

Six states pilot tested TAP in military installations in 1990 to respond to job readiness and career development needs increasing because of downsizing military personnel. The U.S. Congress authorized TAP in 1991 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. It took several years to roll out TAP, beginning in large states and military installations first. Initial rollout began in June 1991 with implementation at 50 installations and over time expanding to 226 installations by September 1993.

Multiple agencies, including the U.S. Departments of Defense, Labor, and Veterans Affairs (VA) oversee TAP, each responsible for delivering specific aspects of the program. Overall, TAP’s intent was to help veterans search for jobs. TAP offers a three- to four-day program, consisting of three parts:

  1. A pre-separation counseling session focused on transitioning and developing personal and professional goals
  2. A three-day employment workshop covering job search assistance, resume writing, and mock interviews
  3. A briefing session to discuss benefits available through the VA, including the GI Bill, Disability Compensation, health care services, and additional career assistance services

An additional workshop is available for veterans with a service-connected disability. This workshop includes more information about Disability Compensation and health care services, as well as Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment programs. Each military branch has the authority and flexibility to adjust services offered within TAP to meet the needs of its personnel.

People who are eligible for TAP include those who have been honorably discharged from having been on active duty for more than 180 days, or less than 180 days if separation was the result of a health condition. People can pursue TAP beginning six months before separation or one year before retirement.

Features of the Study

The study used statistical models to compare veterans who had been offered and received TAP to veterans who were not offered TAP. Using an approach called instrumental variables, among other approaches, the author estimated statistical models of measures of employment, earnings, and education that took into account demographic and military characteristics, state of residence, year of separation from the military, and year of the survey. Outcomes were measured at the time of the survey, 10 years after separation.

The study was restricted to male veterans, ages 26 to 64 at the time of the survey, who were separated from the military from 1990 to 1993. Of those veterans who were offered and accepted TAP, the average age was about 41, 20 percent were African American, and all had a high school diploma. Of those veterans who were not offered TAP, the average age was about 40, 12 percent were African American, and 98 percent had a high school diploma.

Findings

Employment

  • The study found that veterans who participated in TAP were significantly more likely to be employed 10 years after separation from the military than veterans not offered TAP by 7.3 percentage points.

Earnings and wages

  • The study found that veterans who participated in TAP were significantly more likely to have an annual family income exceeding $40,000 than veterans not offered TAP by about 12 percentage points.

Education and skills gain

  • The study found that veterans who participated in TAP were significantly more likely to seek an education or training program than veterans not offered TAP by 15.4 percentage points.
  • The study found that veterans who participated in TAP were significantly more likely to have some college education than veterans not offered TAP by about 15 percentage points.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The author did not account for preexisting differences between the groups before program participation. These preexisting differences between the groups—and not TAP—could explain the observed differences in outcomes.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to TAP; other factors are likely to have contributed to the findings.

Reviewed by CLEAR

May 2020

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