What do veterans face when trying to find work?
The Army’s 20-year “Be All You Can Be” campaign emphasized how military service prepares participants for a bright future. Were those ads accurate? What do real veterans face when trying to find work? I discussed the topic on public radio’s The Takeaway this morning (listen here). Here’s what I found:
Job prospects for veterans are no better than for civilians.
In 2009, the unemployment rate for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war was 10.2%, slightly worse than the 9.1% unemployment rate for non-veterans. And young veterans have an especially tough time finding work: The unemployment rate last year among 18-to-24-year-old Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans was 21%, compared to 16.6% for their non-veteran peers.
Employers have mixed views about vets.
According to Vince Patton, A former Coast Guard officer and current director of community outreach for Military.com, most employers know that hiring vets is viewed as a patriotic thing to do for the country. But they have concerns, too. According to a June 2010 survey of 429 employers by the Society for Human Resource Management, 60% of employers think translating military skills to civilian job experience is a challenge. Other perceived difficulties include possible mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (46%) and tough transitions from hierarchical military culture to civilian workplace culture (48%).
Vets don’t feel prepared.
Meanwhile, veterans on the job hunt sometimes struggle. Some of the youngest veterans joined the military right from high school, and the lack of a college degree makes them less employable. Others have physical disabilities or mental health problems caused by being in combat. A 2007 survey by Military.com found that 81% of transitioning service-members don’t feel fully prepared for the process of finding a job. Additionally, some vets don’t understand how their military experience can prepare them for civilian jobs. For example, someone who was a sniper needs to think about the skills that can translate, such as attention to detail, precision, and knowledge of physics and math.
The good news: There are services out there to help vets.
Every branch of the military provides transitioning services, and the internet is bursting with many other organizations—government, private, and non-profit—that can help with training and/or resources. A few examples: Silent Professionals, Hire Heroes USA, Helmets to Hardhats, RecruitMilitary, Military.com, and American Corporate Partners. There’s also the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment & Training Service (VETS) and the Department of Veterans Affairs VetSuccess program. Check state and local government resources, too, such as the brand-new jobs website from the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. Finally, seek out job fairs in your area targeted specifically to ex-military members. There are lists at sites including TAOnline, Military.com, and CorporateGray.
More good news: The Post-9/11 GI Bill.
This new version of the GI Bill, intended to help veterans pay for college, went into effect last year. It offers 100% coverage at 2- and 4-year public institutions for vets who served at least 3 years since 9/11, or were disabled. The bill covers tuition plus a housing stipend and money for books and supplies; it will also cover private college tuition up to the level of the highest public in-state tuition rate. Meanwhile, many private colleges are participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program, in which the VA matches up to half of a veterans’ tuition contributed by the school. You can find information about all of these programs at gibill.va.gov.
Do you know anyone whose made this transition? What helped them succeed?
This post originally appeared on TheTakeaway.org.