EDITORIAL: State must improve efforts to help veterans find work

California State Auditor Elaine M. Howle's report on the Employment Development Department's efforts to assist veterans in getting jobs indicates that there is much room for improvement.

The report, which was released Thursday, noted that California is one of the lowest-performing states in the nation when it comes to helping veterans find work. In addition, the EDD is failing to meet hiring goals set by the U.S. Department of Labor under the veterans grants program.

But Howle's big finding was the uncovering of more than 1,400 instances where a single Social Security number was associated with 10 or more different names over a three-month period. In one case, a single Social Security number was associated with 162 different names.

Said Howle in the report: "The poor quality of the data California used to report information to Labor on participants in its workforce development system, and the methodology the department uses to collate those data, call into question the validity of California's performance statistics."

The report further noted that EDD does not report suspicious activity "to the appropriate authorities" and called for the state lawmakers to authorize the department to share information with law enforcement "to help protect the State's citizens from identity theft."

The response to the State Auditor's report from Sharon Hilliard, EDD's chief deputy director, was disappointing, to say the least. She characterized the 1,400 instances of a Social Security number being associated with 10 or more names as "statistically insignificant."

Said Hilliard: "While striving for 100% accuracy, EDD depends on the information reported by employers, who, in turn, depend on the information reported by their employees."

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez used the report to relaunch his Assembly Bill 1268. It would establish a separate Veterans Workforce Development and Employment Office within EDD.

"The audit released today confirms that California's existing programs designed to help veterans find employment are consistently failing to meet performance goals," Perez said in a statement.

"As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down ... it (is) imperative that EDD's employment program be better managed so that it can efficiently help veterans find work."

Howle's report pointed out that unemployment among California's veterans (11.3%) was lower than it was for the state's nonveterans (11.9%) in 2011, based on the American Community Survey by the U.S Census Bureau. But in the 25-34 age group, the veteran unemployment rate was 17.1% compared to 11.7% for nonveterans.

The EDD clearly must work harder and smarter to help the men and women who have served our country.

We urge Gov. Brown and lawmakers to focus on getting more Californians -- especially veterans -- working again.