Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars showed courage and faced challenges every moment in their tours of duty. Sadly, some veterans face an equally tough battle at home. While the country gradually recovers from the economic down turn, many of our veterans are struggling to find meaningful employment.
According to Veteran Business Institute, veteran unemployment is 30 percent higher than the overall U.S. unemployment average, and veterans who do find jobs earn between $6,000 and $10,000 less per year than their civilian counterparts. This is a shameful reality to the men and women who have applied their talents and skills and displayed bravery in defense our country.
Unemployment has hit hardest for the younger Afghanistan and Iraq veterans who may have signed up with Uncle Sam right out of high school, and therefore often have less training and job experience than older veterans. But regardless of age, some vets who have honorably served return to find that in this competitive economy, their companies have closed or their jobs have simply evaporated.
It is troubling that a returning vet’s training and skills applied on the battlefield are often not seen as transferrable to the company’s needs. Vets are continually faced with the challenge of educating employers about how their discipline, teamwork and character building experiences in the service will provide substantial value in the workforce. Soldiers are trained to be leaders and understand the importance of working on a team toward a common goal. They know what it means to be accountable in the fullest sense. Their “calm under fire” experience enables them to handle the daily stresses in a work environment. Veterans develop a global perspective that can be an asset in business.
Beyond the diverse set of skills and talents a veteran can bring to an organization, federal tax benefits are available through the ”Work Opportunity Tax Credit “(WOTC) to employers who hire unemployed veterans within one year of having been discharged or released from active duty. Additional credits are available for hiring disabled veterans.
On a positive note, there are many resources and initiatives to help veterans find job search information and employment opportunities. Monster has partnered with several veteran organizations to list resources and post jobs on Veteran Employment ( www.veteranemployment.com). The Philadelphia U.S. Veterans Affairs Department serves veterans from the tri-state area, offering training and employment tools.
In our area, there are many employers, including the Abington Target, PECO, Comcast and Bristol Meyers Squibb, who regularly recruit veterans. The federal government has also been a strong force in recruiting veterans.
We all share a responsibility in supporting our vets to make a healthy transition back into civilian life. Work is one of the most basic ways imaginable that veterans can continue to contribute to society, and experience the rewards of using their talents and skills.
If you know an unemployed veteran, make sure he or she is taking advantage of all available resources, and be sure to welcome the veteran home and thank the person for a job well done.