A generation ago, American service members risking their lives in Southeast Asian jungles returned home to a nation ambivalent to their sacrifice. Good jobs were scarce. Educational opportunities were limited. Too often sidewalks and parks served as home. This national shame cannot be repeated. Many of our service members who risked their lives patrolling the streets and villages of Iraq and Afghanistan and other conflicts are met with closed doors unless we pry them open today. Rather than be rewarded for their service, they are effectively penalized.
Recent statistics say volumes about the issue. According to recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 902,000 men and women between the ages of 18 and 64 unemployed. And the present unemployment rate for recently discharged veterans is an alarming 21.9 percent.¹ More than 60 percent of employers surveyed recently do not believe they have “a complete understanding of the qualifications ex-service members offer,”² and more than three quarters of veterans themselves find it difficult to “effectively translate their military skills into civilian terms.”³
This is a problem that has plagued our military veterans for decades. The federal government has tried to step forward and remedy the issue in a variety of ways. Congress took action after World War II by implementing the original GI Bill to help provide service members with access to a college education and allow them to compete with their fellow civilians who had a higher education. The subsequent Montgomery GI Bill of 1984 and Post-9/11 GI Bill of 2008 have also helped to achieve this goal. There are numerous other government programs that look to assist veterans in securing employment once they have left the armed forces, such as the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program (TAP), the Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), and the Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service (VR&E) program are just a few examples. In addition to several s non-profit groups that look to ease the transition, all of these efforts provide some assistance in getting our loyal veterans back to the civilian workforce.
The Issue Persists…
Despite these noble attempts to improve the lives of our veterans who have finished their military obligations, the employment challenges still persist. Too many of our country’s bravest men and women come home to find that they can neither find a job at all or find a position which will compensate them justly for their current position in life. There are a variety of reasons of why these men and women cannot find jobs. Some attribute it to veterans not being able to explain how their military experience is applicable to a civilian position. Some just lack the proper training in resume building or interview skills. And for some, they face a stigma related to psychological or mental treatments of veterans that impacts their ability to find a new position.
Veterans Deserve More…
Regardless of these reasons, the truth is that our military veterans should be at the top of the candidate list when companies are searching for new employees. In addition to their tested skills of composure and discipline “under fire,” these men and women have received the finest training and expertise that our nation has to offer in a variety of fields. They have been nurtured as the next generation of leaders from the moment of their enlistment and they are proven problem solvers that have the ability to adjust to a variety of situations and challenges put before them.
The time has come for employers to open their doors to some of our nation’s brightest, bravest, and hardest working Americans. Now is the time for us and every employer out there to answer our own call of duty, just as they men and women did when they entered the military. America’s veterans don’t deserve to return home from one battle, only to be thrust into another. Just as they fought to protect our nation and liberties, we will fight to ensure that they are rewarded for their service with stable, competitive, and fruitful opportunities of employment.
1.Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov, March 11, 2011
2. Laura M. Colarusso, “No ‘safety net’ for unemployed veterans,” Newark Star-Ledger, February 24, 2008.
3. Military.com, “Military.com Study Reveals Profound Disconnect between Employers and Transitioning Military Personnel,” November 5, 2007.