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

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Published on May. 8, 2012

Estimated reading time is 4.7 min.

Views to date: 1,807


  1. Rita May 25, 2012 at 2:42 am

    I have worked in a few Government agencies but I was horrified to witness a civilian manager talk about how useless veterans were and admit that he did not want to hire vets. Not only did he communicate this aloud but he said it where other veterans in addition to me could hear him. He even complained to high level employees. I learned that some not all Government jobs find ways to discriminate against Vets.

  2. Stephen May 21, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    It did not help when the Director of Homeland Security made the comment about returning veterans are worse than terrorists (or whatever her wording was).

    After that I would not hire a veteran (except I know better).

  3. Robert Lindgren May 18, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    What a piece of crap this program is. They throw scraps like they are trying to help long term unemployed veterans. The fact of the matter is this bill is being run by a bunch of pencil pushers that have no intention of anyone even using the benefits. And they have veterans fighting each other as if this bill is a real benefit. You do not believe me?
    Consider these contradictions in the bill. I have less than one year in schooling left to obtain a BS to either teach or Nursing. I could use those benefits to finish school yet VRAP will not pay out and I do not qualify. Yet if I go take acting or singing classes the VRAP pays out. I have been given advanced standing at a Paramedic school but they told me to enter I must get my EMT and that way I can skip their 1 year EMT program (1 year) which is worthless to get a job. But if I get my EMT certification I am allowed into [their] one year certified Paramedic program which would be easy to find employment with this certification as a paramedic. But DOL says if I use the program to do a 3 week online certification to get into the paramedic program they will not pay any more and will not allow me to use the other 11 months I have left to get the Paramedic certification. What a bunch of jokers these DOL pencil pushers are. And what a piece of crap legislation Obama put his name on. You know I have called in about 35 times, each time on hold and each time a counselor gives me different answers. I always thought they were incompetent, didn’t get the correct information. I now understand why they did not get the correct information out. The program is so bad there is actually no intention of helping veterans. It is a political program that picks and chooses who they are going to help just like the Equal Opportunity Program that is only equal opportunity for those that are in the right groups. Did you get that? It is being managed by the same EEOC pencil pushers that discriminate on skin color. If someone wants to be an actor, a singer or dancer the program pays out but if you have only a few courses to become a certified RN or Teacher of middle school the program doesn’t pay out because that is a four year degree, that is a Bachelor degree. So what if your a certified teacher or certified RN, these do not count. But a certified two year RN but not a 4 year RN will qualify. What planet do these goofballs come from? Do they have any kind of reality when they write this legislation? I assure you their intention is not to help veterans but to pat themselves on their own backs on this one. The idea to to have the…

  4. Patrick Warren May 17, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    Employers want to see more than a sense of entitlement due to service of one’s country. It’s a capitalist for-profit system and one thing the military does not do is make money. The military’s prime purpose is to be ready to destroy, not create. Once a veteran realizes that he/she will have to create and produce things of real value in the world besides just following orders and looking good in a uniform, then they’re set. But a big thing today is that people should be entrepreneurial anyway, because if all of us stand around and look for jobs, who’s creating the jobs?

  5. Al May 9, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    CNAS is definitely on the right track but what remains to be seen is how much influence their proposed initiatives would have on employers. Part of the problem with veterans finding work and reintegrating back into civilian life is the media. It doesn’t really help the cause for many vets particularly returning war vets when there is such an overemphasis with these stories about PTSD and suicides creating misconceptions about the effects of military service. Rightfully so this should be a concern for communities across the nation but unfortunately there is a programmed perception amongst employers and it certainly weighs heavily on their decision to hire veterans. That perception alone can easily overshadow the unique skills and abilities veterans bring to the table making it a harder sell during the interview process.

    In addition to wellness, the focus should be on educating employers rather than just giving them tax breaks to address the veteran unemployment epidemic. Many of these employers are long-time federal contractors where they’re already benefiting financially from doing business with the government. If the Department of Labor properly enforced requirements under VEVRAA regulations and provided more oversight ensuring those contractors are actually recruiting veterans for jobs then we would see better results. The VA should also have more flexibility for veterans wanting to utilize their education benefits for specific on-the-job training goals. There is so much more that DOD, VA and Labor Dept. can do in collaboration with state and local governments to help veterans. When does it get better? It’s the same story for vets, generation after generation and we still haven’t learned from past misfortunes. The point is we need for all this talk to translate into action NOW.

    • Nichole Olson May 13, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      I wrote an article featured on Vantage Point that was published earlier this year about my own experiences. From replies from that article as well as from those whe read it on my facebook page, I can tell you that it’s not getting easier. I agree that the nation needs to take a look at the entire puzzle, as you put it, and not just piece by piece.

  6. don johnson May 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    As a veteran of the Vietnam War and a retired military person (since 1991) I found it very hard to find gainful employment after my retirement. A lot of the jobs offered to me were commissioned jobs (part of your pay based on a sales commission). I did not accept any of those jobs because the pay was not enough to substain my basic living standard (which is not high). I had attended college on my off time in the service, but did not have a chance to complete a degree program and later after retirement I did complete my degree program. So, now I have a degree, retired military, should be no problem? Well, think again, even though I had a 4 year degree and lots of working experience I found it hard to find a job with pay that was compatibile to my the jobs/salary of my peers. Why? Well, other factors such as age, military orientation, location, economy and of course, stereo type attitudes may had an impact on my ability to get a good job. In addition, my attitude of myself also played an important part in my adjustment and job search.
    I had to relook at myself as a person and rethink my approach to the adjustment from military to civilian life. I found that reading self help books can give you some insight; networking helped also. In addition, I sort spiritual guidance to helped me mentally when the “chips were down” and meeting with positive people help keep me on the right track. I did not play the blame game (the military did this to me etc.). I felt the military prepared me for survival in a combat situation, and helped me in my life as a person in a positive way.
    At this present time, some years later, I am working a full time job, have a degree and obtained a graduate certificate. I have a positive attitude and continue to seek improvement in my life, and career. As a veteran, I encourage other veterans returning to the mainstream of life, be positive, seek improvement, keep trying, and hold your head of up high… veterans are an asset to society.

    • Michael Collins May 15, 2012 at 10:08 am

      I have a bachelor of business administration with a concentration in accountancy, applied to 1,400 plus positions. I am still unemployed. The VA stated to me no one in the right mind would hire me, I am a 100% disabled veteran and this statement was true. I am a third class citizen behind tea party members, behind “christian coalitian” who want people like me to drop dead. I wish my death would come sooner but it will not, so I am attempting to be a part of society and give back. I volunteer since no one will hire me. I want to work, but I am unable to find work, I am Michael Collins I live in Escondido CA, and I am willing to relocate toward a new career. I am upside down on my mortgage which I am still paying on, but the bank (CITI Mortgage) refuses to renegotiate at 7%. Unemployed now for 2.5 years.

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