In recent years, major corporations have vowed to hire more veterans in an effort to decrease the staggering rate of unemployment among former service members. Even in the aftermath of this hiring trend, however, the percentage of unemployed veterans remains high. In order to fully understand this phenomenon, it is essential for employers, veterans and lawmakers to comprehend the underlying factors that continue to leave veterans out of work. By recognizing the following factors that perpetuate veteran unemployment and implementing the necessary changes, we may finally begin to reverse this devastating trend.
Lack of Recognition for Military Training
For the first time in U.S. history, the majority of business owners, hiring managers and CEOs have no military experience. This means that employers often fail to see how military training makes veterans excellent employees in the civilian world. A large majority of veterans are feeling the consequences of this information gap and frequently report an extreme amount of frustration in trying to sell their military experience as valuable. Veterans who served as medics in the military are among the most discouraged, as they were able to provide advanced medical care on the battlefield yet are considered unqualified for civilian jobs requiring far less responsibility.
Need for More Military-Friendly Colleges
In order reverse this trend, institutions of higher learning must continue to work toward meeting the specific needs of veterans. Certain military-friendly colleges offer scholarships, tuition discounts and grants for veterans seeking college funding, and it is imperative that more colleges across the country follow in their footsteps. One way for colleges to become more military-friendly is to grant the maximum amount of college credit for military experiences. Colleges are in charge of conducting American Council on Education (ACE) reviews in an effort to evaluate the amount of credit each veteran may be eligible for based on military training. While the ACE review program has helped veterans in transferring some of their military experience, colleges across the country vary in the amount of credit that is granted, and veterans at certain institutions may not get all of the college credits they deserve. By implementing a more veteran-friendly review system, veteran can more easily transfer their hard-earned military experiences into successful careers.
Employer Bias and Fear of PTSD
While the increased media awareness of the impact of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on veterans has been beneficial for improving mental health services, it has done little to help veterans land jobs. USA Today reports that the continued problem of unemployed veterans is largely related to the stigma associated with the mental and emotional trauma veterans are presumed to have. Many employers have relayed to veterans that, while they are otherwise qualified, their combat experiences make them unreliable employees. In reality, most veterans who suffer from PTSD are able to function normally through treatment. Furthermore, coping with combat-related PTSD is comparable to other psychological disorders suffered by a large number of non-veterans, including depression, anxiety and non-combat related PTSD.
Furthermore, in 1990, congress passed the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), which ruled that employers may not refuse employment to otherwise qualified candidates on the basis of a life-altering disability. According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), this law extends to those with PTSD, making it illegal for employers to refuse employment to veterans based on their diagnosis or assumed diagnosis of PTSD. Exercising your rights under this law as a veteran will allow you to take control when it comes to fighting discrimination. Additionally, consistent enforcement of this law will serve to hold employers accountable and help to eliminate the stigma associated with hiring veterans.
Roadblocks to Transitioning Into Civilian Life
For many veterans, making the transition from military to civilian life is one of the greatest obstacles preventing them from gaining employment. Transitioning from a combat zone where they were responsible for keeping their fellow soldiers alive to a situation where they must prove their usefulness to an employer can be extremely demoralizing. Additionally, the lack of structure of civilian life as compared to that of the military can be difficult to adjust to.
While there are programs in place to assist veterans with their transition into civilian life, many of these programs are either difficult to navigate or failing to provide essential information. For example, the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), which provides job counseling and assistance with resume writing, is used by only a small percentage of veterans. To improve participation in programs such as this one, the Department of Defense must work to encourage involvement while shifting the focus of these services toward helping veterans adjust to the unique demands of civilian employment.
In order to successfully reduce the rate of unemployment among veterans, it essential to focus on these problems and solutions and to give those who have served our country the career opportunities they deserve.
Classroom image Enri Endrian from Flickr Creative Commons
About the Author: Monica Kaiser is a veteran, blogger, and full-time student.