Auditor Suzanne M. Bump today released an audit of the Department of Veterans\u2019 Services (DVS), in which she provides recommendations to improve outreach to veterans who may qualify for benefits and assistance from the agency. The audit found that inter-governmental silos and a lack of data created barriers that result in veterans not receiving benefits for which they are qualified.\n\nBump\u2019s audit notes that DVS could improve outreach to veterans through veterans\u2019 services officers (VSOs) by utilizing data collected by other state agencies. For example, currently, DVS uses US Census Bureau data to estimate the statewide population of veterans, however it does not obtain information on veterans in individual communities. The audit notes that the Elections Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth collects data on veterans in individual communities, which DVS could provide to VSOs to ensure they are reaching these populations.\n\nAdditionally, the audit encourages DVS to explore opportunities to better collaborate with other state agencies that provide public benefits to residents of the Commonwealth to ensure it is reaching veterans. The audit highlights MassHealth as a potential partner for DVS. MassHealth provides its members the opportunity to self-identify as veterans. The audit shows that of the 13,679 MassHealth members who identify as veterans, only 1,460 also receive Chapter 115 veteran benefits. However, analysis by Bump\u2019s office notes that 7,938 of the remaining MassHealth members who identify as veterans may also qualify for veterans benefits administered by DVS, but do not currently receive them.\n\n\u201cWhether they are assisting with a natural disaster within our borders, or protecting freedom around the globe, veterans have served and sacrificed bravely in our name. It is our responsibility to ensure that when they return home, they receive the assistance and care they deserve,\u201d Bump said. \u201cOur audit found that a lack of data sharing, and inter-governmental silos present barriers to efforts to reach veterans who may qualify for services. I encourage the Department of Veterans\u2019 Services to expand collaboration with other state government entities to ensure veterans are aware of the benefits that are available to them.\u201d\n\nAccording to U.S. Census data from 2015, there are more than 327,900 veterans living in Massachusetts, representing approximately 6.1 percent of the state\u2019s adult population. \n\nThe audit is part of a series conducted by Bump\u2019s office identifying barriers to accessing programs that make up the Commonwealth\u2019s social safety net. Earlier this year, as part of this effort, Bump released an audit of the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund, which found delays in application processing resulted in families waiting on average 289 days to receive financial assistance for costs associated with a child\u2019s illness. \n\nThe audit released today also found DVS made improper reimbursements to cities and towns, did not ensure veterans received an explanation of their benefits, and some VSOs did not complete required training and certification examinations.\n\nDVS is an agency within the state\u2019s Executive Office of Health and Human Services. It is tasked with assisting and advising veterans\u2019 service officers regarding benefits and services for which veterans may be eligible. During the audit period\u2014July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2016\u2014DVS had approximately 65 employees.\n\nThe audit of the Department of Veterans\u0027 Services is available here.