This week, we celebrated Veterans Day. Today, we take a closer look at the challenges– and opportunities– for returning vets.
The economic downturn hit everyone– but it’s been especially tough on veterans just returning from service.
Chart by Council of Economic Advisers, via Brad Plumer’s blog post
Thom Patterson broke down some of the issues returning vets face (his words, my emphasis):
But for young vets who served after the 9/11 attacks, the number is higher: 10%. That rate peaked at 13.1% in December 2011. But today, it still translates into 246,000 post-9/11 vets who were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country — and who now are looking for work.
And in some ways, things are getting harder.
That’s because a 2-year-old federal program that retrains veterans and offers tax breaks to businesses that hire veterans — the VOW to Hire Heroes Act — is set to expire at the end of the year. Also, Congress has slashed a social safety net that provides food stamps to feed more than 900,000 veterans and their families.
Brad Plumer described some of the most pressing issues contributing to the shockingly high rate of unemployment among new vets. They include:
- Lack of civilian work experience
- Obstacles for veterans making the transition (Plumer writes, “So, for instance, the 10,000 military health-care workers or 10,000 military truck drivers who left the armed services last year often have to pass new tests and go through a fresh set of licensing hurdles in order to get a job as a civilian EMT or truck driver — even if they already have the required skills.”)
The number of returning vets will soar in the next few years, so it’s vital that they find the support they need to succeed back home. It’s not about charity– it’s about making sure they have the opportunities they deserve, whether that’s job training, medical support (for both mental and physical health), or simply finding that their skill set is valued by employers.
As Paul Rieckhoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America says, “Employers have to understand a veteran is not just your next security guard. A veteran could be your next Mark Zuckerberg.”
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