Veterans continue to struggle to gain employment because of culture gaps between civilian society and their military pasts, as well as a lack of seamless integration amongst Veteran care programs.
Years ago companies and small businesses would give priority to veterans for work from their State’s Unemployment Office. Unfortunately for Veterans, things have changed. Interviewers rarely ask about military experience and when Vets bring it up, it seems to be of no real interest to the employer.
My brother David who served in the Iraq War had a similar experience during his job interview. He’d bring up the military experience on his resume, but the employer seemed to just wave off what he had said with an “oh, that’s interesting,” and move on to his civilian work experience. Since he had enlisted at 18, David had very little work experience in a civilian setting, and as a result, didn’t get the job.
Veteran employment is an ever increasing issue in our country for a number of factors. The most pertinent reason is the fact that interviewers fail to see how the 4 to 20 years of military service may have given the potential employee all of the relevant and valuable experience needed to fill that position.
This is improving among larger corporations but smaller, “mom and pop” businesses, the kind that are hiring the most, still have trouble understanding the concept of how Veteran military experience is relevant to the job. The challenge is to show employers that general skills and discipline acquired in the military can be a priceless asset to a company.
A local Deli shop owner in Hollywood, Florida shared his experience with hiring a Veteran in the past:
“One of my best employees when I managed a local supermarket for a little over 5 years was a Veteran who I hired as the Floor Manager. He was basically responsible for walking the aisles and overlooking the cashiers and stockers to keep a good eye on them for employee violations, as well as looking out for shoplifters. Because of his general military experience, he was invaluable to me. Honest to a fault but incredibly disciplined and smart, he saved me and the store a lot of money because of his vigilance and sense of duty.”
In addition, Veterans continue to have a difficult time finding employment because of the issues surrounding their reintegration into society. Every Veteran can probably remember the nervousness, anxiety and perhaps the small hint of fear that they felt on their first day of basic training and the process of transitioning from a civilian to a service member began. Making the change back into civilian life after years of service can be just as hard to work through, especially when facing higher than normal unemployment rates.
Although many Vets succeed in making the change from the uniform to civilian, the process is hardly ever a smooth and seamless one. So how can we help our men and women in uniform have a less problematic integration into the work environment of civilian society?
“Well after Service” was written by Nancy Berglass and Dr. Margaret C. Harrell as a project of the Joining Forces division of the Military, Veterans and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). This organization concentrates on research and analysis of Veterans and their respective families, and the effects of military service on service members. Nancy Berglass and Dr. Harrell discovered that some recent Vets had service related challenges that no government program, mechanism, or agency sufficiently addressed, putting most of the problem on poorly funded veteran communities across America.
The authors highlighted some of the key issues surrounding Veteran transitions:
Cultural Polarization: Less than 1 percent of the American population serve in some military branch. General civilian society does not understand the needs and unique challenges posed to Vets. Injuries, effects of military life on social relationships, and emotional trauma experienced during duty all tell the difference between Veteran wellness and that of the general public.
Back to Back Deployments: Frequent deployments of returning Veterans can cause severe fatigue on both physical and mental health.
Missing the “Big Picture”: Although the US Dept. of Defense meets the needs of active duty service members, there currently isn’t an official process to integrate them into the care of the VA or other appropriate organizations. Also, while there have been many initiatives that have focused on helping troops and their families, none have targeted reintegration as a whole entity. They instead look at a single element of the puzzle, like education, healthcare, and employment.
The report proposes at joint cooperation between the Department of Defense, the Department of Veteran Affairs, nonprofit grant makers, and community leaders to develop a reintegration program that would cover all of the specific needs that are unique to veterans.
That’s not to say programs like the Veterans Farm Datil Salt initiative and Catapult Technology have tremendously helped the transition process. What the folks at CNAS are asking for however is a centralized initiative, one that stems from the community, back to the government in a seamless procedure that can help vets who’ve face enough hardships as it is.
Would this be the best solution to help veterans transition back into the workforce and civilian society in general? What do you think of “Well after Service” and their conclusions? Tell us what you think.
Vincent H. Clarke’s brother is an Iraq Veteran. Vincent holds a Bachelors degree in English from the University of Hawaii. He works as a writer with USB Memory Direct