The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report that provided a valuable inventory of all the programs in the federal government that provide “education and employment benefits to help servicemembers, veterans, and their families achieve civilian jobs.” In total, there are 45 programs and one tax expenditure strewn across 12 different federal agencies. GAO did not include broader employment programs that veterans can also participate in on the list – only ones that are exclusively for the military population.
This inventory was prompted by a request in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 (NDAA) that asked GAO “to assess the panoply of benefits and programs available government-wide to separating servicemembers intended to provide the skills and education necessary for such members to achieve meaningful and fulfilling employment in their civilian lives.”
Why could Congress not just look up the information themselves? The same reason why servicemembers transitioning to civilian life cannot. There was no such inventory “that could easily give Congress or potential participants a complete picture of available benefits.”
So why wasn’t there a public list of all the federal programs that can help servicemembers get jobs? Or all of the federal programs that our tax dollars support for that matter?
The answer: Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has been blocking the Taxpayers Right to Know Act – a bill sponsored by Senator James Lankford that has received overwhelming bipartisan support and has passed the House without any opposition several times. The bill would require federal agencies to list out all the programs they are running, show how much each program costs to run, how many employees are required to run it, who the intended beneficiaries are, and how effective it has been.
Sen. Schumer’s objection to the bill is that “the reporting requirements…could fill up volumes and volumes” and that “there’s no good answers to them. There’s no clear answer to them.” He went on to say that the law could lead to the “slashing of programs.”
In the absence of government-wide program inventories with evaluations as required under the Taxpayers Right to Know Act, Congress, taxpayers, and potential beneficiaries are reliant on one-off reports from GAO like this one.
When providing this first ever inventory of these programs, GAO noted the absence of a program inventory makes it “difficult to assess the extent of the federal investment in supporting the civilian employment of transitioning servicemembers, veterans, and their families” and that “it limits efforts to make government more effective and efficient.”
It turns out, instead of slashing programs, Senator Schumer’s objection is hiding useful information from the men and women who have protected our country.
Which of the 45 programs are most effective? Are there any that are not working? Which of the 12 agencies are doing the best job administering these programs?
No one knows. Because Senator Schumer believes that taxpayers do not have the right to.