The Circumstances Surrounding Veteran Unemployment

As most are aware, veteran unemployment is a major issue today. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as of May 2012, the unemployment rate for veterans was at 12.7%. This is compared to the national rate of 8.3%.

Statistics aside, let’s think about the effect this has on individual veterans. Many have families to provide for. Others may be single with no family to lean on. And some may just been in desperate need of income, but can’t figure out how to break into the civilian job market.

I have had the opportunity to speak with veterans of all ages, races, and backgrounds. One thing many have in common is the struggle to find employment after their military service concludes. None cared to speculate why they couldn’t find a job, but they all had a relentless motivation to find employment.

There were a couple veterans I spoke with who didn’t want to be named, but let’s call the first one “Chris.” Chris was one of the most inspiring people I have ever talked to. He was an Army veteran who served 2 deployments to Iraq. He suffered from TBI due to an IED blast on his first deployment. His father, who was his only real family, passed away in the midst of his second tour. Once he returned home, his apartment caught fire. He was age 24, unemployed and homeless. Chris lived on the streets for a while, but received some critical help from his caseworker at the VA to get into a new place.

PTSD was a constant struggle for Chris. For a while, it was so debilitating that he could not work. He finally got a part time job as a night security guard, which allowed him the quiet he needed at a difficult time in his life. He also went back to school and is doing much better now on his road to recovery.

Another veteran I spoke with, “Stuart,” was in his 40’s when his trouble came about. He fell victim to the recession, like many others in the country. He was laid off from his job in 2008, forced to pursue a completely different career path. The problem, however, was that it had been so long since he had been in the job pool and the game had changed immensely.

Stuart eventually got a job with the federal government, but his frustration with the difficult process still overcame him. It took years of agonizing uncertainty, and a near bout with homelessness, before he finally got a job.

These are just two examples of the problems veterans face while on the job search. You will often hear the 18-24 demographic thrown around when talking about veteran unemployment numbers. This is a significant age group. Going back to the statistics, the unemployment rate for the 24 and under age group is a staggering 29.1%. Think about it. Nearly one-third of OIF/OEF veterans—our newest veterans—are unemployed.

Why?

Like Chris, the veterans in that age group often do not have college degrees. Those looking to enter the job market often do so with nothing but their military occupation to list on their resume, and veterans are usually not on the same page as employers. But, this is a double-edged sword because employers are typically out of touch when it comes to their perception of military service. It is unfortunately the veteran’s responsibility to adapt, not the employer’s.

Veterans have a major advantage when applying for jobs, though. They have lived in both military and civilian worlds. When discussing military occupation on a resume or in an interview, they just need to be able to translate it into civilian language.

Since this is such a common barrier for veterans looking for work, Disabled Veterans National Foundation has enlisted the expertise of several veteran unemployment experts in our Veteran Employment Webinar series. We will be continuing these webinars with our next installment on translating military service into civilian language.

Fortunately, there has been a big push throughout the country this past year to help veterans get jobs, and to get employers to see the value of hiring veterans. With a tough economy, it is important to note that veterans can be some of the best assets a company can have. They are hard working, driven individuals. They take nothing for granted and try to get the most out of every single day.

DVNF’s next webinar will take place soon, and we hope that any veteran looking for useful tips on translating their military experience will attend. As always, past webinars are archived on our website.

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