Monday, November 13, 2006
Young veterans struggle to find jobs
"The nation's vets leave one war to fight another one at home," Iraq war veteran Josh Hopper wrote to me in an e-mail. The war at home he was referring to was not the battle to rehabilitate his body from a severe wound, or the fight to restore his mind from psychological trauma, but his war to find work.

Hopper and many other young veterans like him are risking their lives overseas, but once they leave the military, they are discovering that employers back home don't always value their skills. In 2005, the unemployment rate for veterans age 20-to-24 was almost double the rate for non-veterans in the same age group, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We wanted to know why.

  • One former Marine told me some employers saw the years he spent serving his country as "taking a few years off."
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs suspects some employers can't see how military experience can translate to the working world.
  • A veteran's issues expert even claims that some employers are scared to hire veterans.
In our report tonight, we'll look into what the military is doing to help veterans get jobs and why some veterans say that for many employers -- "Support Our Troops" -- doesn't seem to include hiring veterans so they can support themselves.
Posted By Chuck Hadad, CNN Producer: 4:45 PM ET
  38 Comments
Transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce has always been a challenge for soldiers. It was for me and I was in during the first Gulf War. The skills and qualities we value in the military don't translate to the civilian sector. I feel for those soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are many qualities a soldier has that makes them an ideal employee, too many to name here. I hope people in positions to hire read this, watch your story Chuck and take a chance on a young soldier.

Melina
US Army
Posted By Anonymous Melina - Mesa, AZ : 5:17 PM ET
I think that is horrible that companies or business owners will not employ a vetern because they are for some reason scared. After all the veteran has done to risk their life for the men/ women of the United States at least you could do is give them a job instead of looking down upon them for securing the US. Maybe tonight on AC360 someone affected and will hire & treat veterans they with respect for going to such great lengths to keep us safe...
PS I'll be watching the special report tonight !:)
Posted By Anonymous Joanna Parker , Millsboro, DE : 5:20 PM ET
I've spent nearly 20 years in the Air Force and will be retiring soon. I've had many job offers already and should not have a problem getting a job. It really makes a difference what your job is while in the military.
Posted By Anonymous Randy, Omaha, NE : 5:22 PM ET
As an employee of a Marine Corps Education Center, I work daily with Marines and Sailors looking for "real-world" skills. I can't say enough about the biggest little secret of the United States Military - education benefits!
All of the military branches offer generous Tuition Assistance Programs, which allow any active duty member to attend college classes at no cost, with a cap on the amount of benefits available per fiscal year (USMC is $4500 per year per Marine).
Also, the SMART Transcript program is invaluable - converting military schools and training into college credits to help towards a degree. Similar benefits are available to our veterans and can make or break a veteran's real-world employability. A veteran can still walk into any Education Center aboard their installation and get help with their SMART Transcript - sometimes cutting in half the training and classes needed to earn a vocational certificate or college degree.
The military recognizes that not all employers can see the face value of military training and experience, which is why the SMART Transcript Program is such a valuable tool.
Additionally, for servicemen thinking about their future, there is the USMAP Program - which converts your daily duties in your MOS while you are on active duty to real-world credits, allowing you to earn vocational degrees by simply doing your military job. The GI Bill is of course available, and again, that SMART Transcript can greatly assist you in obtaining your degree.
As for employers that are scared to hire veterans - we can't win them all, but we can combat the bias with knowledge, and with a little help from organizations like www.gijobs.net which focuses on military-friendly companies and job placement for veterans.
These programs don't get nearly enough marketing, and I think our best stance is to fight ignorance with knowledge. Get educated, servicemen and women!
Posted By Anonymous MSgt's Wife, Temecula CA : 5:28 PM ET
The bottom line is that our returning vets are in competition with thousands of kids who are graduating from college for the same service oriented jobs. Employers prefer a degree to service.

In the past vets could always find good paying factory or akilled trades jobs which are not there anymore.

My advice to vets is to go back to school and get your degree..
Posted By Anonymous Dan, Arizona : 5:31 PM ET
For returning veterans, searching for and getting a job must be seen as another mission. There are many resources out here, like CareerLink networks that bring multiple job services into a one-stop shopping environment, and also specialized programs that work with veterans. Many of us managing these programs are veterans from earlier conflicts and we are committed to moving returning soldiers successfully into the workforce.
Posted By Anonymous Richard Finch, Impact Services Corporation, Philadelphia, PA 19134 : 5:33 PM ET
Why hire America's own sons and daughters who have risked their lives for our freedom and protection when we can hire illegal workers who are crossing our borders by the thosands each year?!?.... Get real people-- if we can't take care of our own we've got real problems. These are young men and women who have given up their rights and freedoms to go to some God forbidden country and fight for what is right. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue this is an American issue. It's the "Land of the free and the home of the brave"--and when those brave young men and women come home from war they deserve a job.
I wonder how many of us sitting here watching it from afar would be willing to risk it all and head out for the combat zone. Come on America --- if anyone is deserving of an opportunity it's those who have fought for our precious freedoms. Think about it!
Posted By Anonymous Zann Vickers Easterwood Martin, Tennessee : 5:42 PM ET
Operation Grateful Nation addresses this very concern in regards to disabled veterans. The program is available throughout the country and provides training, mentorship, internships and job placement. OGN also provides venture capital funds for businesses that are run by or include disabled vets.

More information is available at www.operationgratefulnation.org
Posted By Anonymous Erin; Houston, Texas : 5:46 PM ET
I find it appaling that anyone would NOT hire a veteran here in America. Possibly one of the reasons that they are not being hired is because of a lack of GOOD paying jobs. The same people that sent our young people to war are the same people that outsourced a LOT of good paying jobs, our Politicians , both Republicans & Democrats. While our sons and daughters , fathers & mothers were in Iraq the jobs they had were going overseas because of greed in big business. Greed is what is driving America now and it is driving America straight to hell. How many more politicians and CEO's are going to go to jail before this nonsense stops? The Democrats have an opening to get America back on course and they sure as hell better take it. The voters sent the politicians a message, the Republicans got the boot. If the Democrats did not get the message they are next. Stop the outsoutcing, close our borders and start creating jobs here in America. There are plenty of things in our infrastructure that need rebuilding. There is no end to the list of things that need to be done. Start rebuilding America and there will be plenty of jobs, jobs for LEGAL citizens of America.
Posted By Anonymous Al Mellen Lincoln Delaware : 5:56 PM ET
Global Relief Technologies, located in Portsmouth, NH, is hiring veterans. We are a veteran's owned business and have a number of veterans on staff. GRT recently hired a USMC veteran after he served three tours of duty in Iraq. Veterans often possess the skills and experince GRT seeks in employees in order that we can better support our customers, which includes international humanitarian organizations, the UN, US first responders, and the US Marine Corps. Veterans seeking more information should visit the GRT web-site at www.globalrelieftech.com

Michael Gray
CEO
Posted By Anonymous Michael Gray, Portsmouth NH : 6:17 PM ET
It is an outrage that employers don't give these young soldiers a chance when they return from their tour of duty. Soldiers need to have the idea that when they return from military service, they can join the workforce and move forward with their lives. They have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, now we owe them.

Also, for those veterens who come home and they have either physical or mental problems that come about as a result of their tour of duty, there needs to be more programs through hospitals or private foundations to help these soldiers get back on their feet to function again. When we say "support our troops" we have to mean that abroad and at home.
Posted By Anonymous Madeliene Bolden, Atlanta, Georgia : 6:20 PM ET
How many of our Vets come out of Active Duty to the Reserve, Ready Reserve or Guard? Bet this is a negative on a job ap.
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista,ar : 6:31 PM ET
Hey Chuck~
It is unbelieveable that veterans are having a difficult time finding employment. Just to think that employers are scared to hire veterans or think that a veteran's military service was "taking a few years off" is absurd. Yeah, like we all want to go to glorious Iraq for a vacation. Employers who refuse to hire veterans are prejudice. Thanks for bringing this to the public's attention. This is a very important issue!
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 6:34 PM ET
I don't understand why employers would be afraid of our returning military men and women. After all, they are over in a foreign country, standing in harm's way for all of us here at home.They had to leave their homes and families and everything familiar and dear to them, and then for them to come home and get turned down for a job---I hope their former employers can't sleep at night. They should be honored and respected, instead of being treating as outcasts. Situations like this remind me of when the Viet Nam vets were coming home, and called baby killers and everything else that could be thought of to insult and hurt them.Anyway, that's my 2cents, my father was a veteran of WWII and my sympathies have always been with the veterans. Anyone who hasn't been in their situation couldn't possibly know what it's like, and that includes me, I know a little, but I don't know the day in and day out fear. I just feel they should be getting a lot better treatment once they get back to their own home country, instead of illegal immigrants getting all the breaks.
Posted By Anonymous Leisa Helms, Boaz, Alabama : 6:43 PM ET
I agree. Finding work for Vets upon leaving the service is not an easy task.

Vets have to learn how to modify their vocabularity, so non-Vets can comprehend. The military is notorious for its use of acronyms and branch specific terms/phrases. I would recommend the military take a more pro-active approach in the use of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, which is often used by State employment agencies for job service programs. This reference book will assist the Vet in editing his/her resume, so it is more comprehendable.

As gung-ho as it may be to be Airborne, Air Assault, Path Finder and Ranger qualified...the reality is, that once that servicemember gets out of the military, he/she will have a tuff time finding a compatible job. Then again, I haven't checked Soldier Of Fortune Magazine's want ads lately.

:-)

Choose a MOS (career specialty) which is easily transferrable in case something happens to you while in the service. Something WILL happen! Do not expect the world to open its arms to employ you, just because you are a Vet and have an honorable discharge. It's NOT going to happen.

Change your hair style and look more non-military. Vets who are familiar with "high and tight" cuts know what I mean. It's ok to have some hair. Guys and gals should both add some color and style to your wardrobe. The trench coat you received while in the military or those great patch covered jackets you had custom made while in Korea or Germany should be stored in a box. It's ok to be proud of your service time...but there is a time and place for everything.

I was an officer, who served in the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea as well as Ft. Hood, Texas. I was fortunate enough to have a retired Sergeant Major to pull me aside when I visited the Texas Workforce Commission in Austin, TX, many years ago and explain the harsh realities of transition into the "real world". I'm forever greatful. Thanks Sergeant Major Richard "Rick" Cunningham.
Posted By Anonymous Alton J. Jones, Phoenix, AZ : 6:46 PM ET
While some employers may view serving in the army as "taking a few years off," this is most certainly an exception rather than the rule. I also find it extremely narrow minded to believe that employers are "scared" to hire veterans. Where is this proof? While veterans aged 20-24 may be twice as likely to be unemployed than non-veterans, rather than scapegoating corporations as being prejudiced, how many of these veterans have college degrees? Since most employers are for-profit corporations, they are looking for highly educated people, and unless there is some affirmative action program for war veterans, it seems as if veterans need to focus more on education.
Posted By Anonymous Alex K., New York, NY : 6:57 PM ET
Thanks a lot, Chuck. I appreciate all the work you and your correspondents are doing for this story.
Posted By Anonymous THE Josh Hopper, Ukiah, Ca : 7:31 PM ET
Unfortunately the reality of the matter is that a lot of civilian employers do not recognize military service as credible work experience. When I returned back to the civilian work force after having honorably served in the Marine Corps the only type of employment offers that I recieved were security guard jobs and jobs involving hard physical labor that offered no real career future. The only advice that I can offer to former service members is to take advantage of your G.I. Bill benefits and earn a college degree. I know it is a kick in the stomach when you return to the civilian world and recieve no respect what so ever for having defended the freedom of the employer who won't even bother consider employing you.
Posted By Anonymous Thomas, Portland, OR : 7:34 PM ET
If someone doesn't give a job to a former serviceman/woman simply because they don't like the military, that's unfortunate. However, that's their right to do so (Although I disagree with their stance). I would imagine it's not a widespread problem as most everyone looks favorably at those in uniform. Returning soldiers in the age category listed (20 to 24) are competing for jobs with recent college graduates which makes for a tough fight. Many employers may favor a college degree over military experience. However, the best bet is military experience and a college degree. The military allows anyone, officer and enlisted, the chance to continue their education while in the service or after they get out via the G.I. Bill and other benefits. Best of luck to all who serve/served!
Posted By Anonymous AF Guy, Alaska : 8:02 PM ET
How about attending school? The government will pay for veterans to attend trade schools, colleges, universities, and other types of post-secondary education.

In some cases, they can earn a paycheck while attending classes. If you earned the money, why not use it?
Posted By Anonymous Genevieve M, El Paso, TX : 8:27 PM ET
I say, that if our vets are good enough to fight for our freedom,then they
should be given a chance to re-enter society and atleast try to get their lives together.These employers,
were not afraid of these men and women before they left for war.They should make a good chance for our brave men and women,
and welcome them back.Some of these vets have families you know.They can not be treated like throw aways.They earned the right,to be back to work here in America.
Have some respect!!!!
Posted By Anonymous Janet E. Moore-Seattle,Washington : 8:37 PM ET
Bottom line is that civilians are scared that we will take over and be way more productive. So they don't hire vets.
Posted By Anonymous Mark, Lexington, KY : 10:30 PM ET
Transition from the military to a post secondary school if you've been away for over 2 years can be very stringent. The loss of continuous schooling can result in the loss of basic knowledge. Being out of school for two years (plus) and continuing again would be like starting from the beginning of high school.
The soldier may not meet the requirements for the working experience, but do the business care for service over education? Of course not, education is highly appraised over service. We're not a meritocracy type government. Depending on the type of post secondary education the soldier is wanting to obtain, the $4500 is a stepping stool, but mostly likely won't be enough for any kind of tuttion cost except for a community college or state at most. Any out of state school is obviously out of the question. Working along with loans/scholarships/grants is the only possible decision.
Posted By Anonymous AE Winder, GA : 11:44 PM ET
Bush invaded Iraq , as he has said, "we have to fight them there so we don't have to fight them here at home". I guess the Iraqies would come over here in boats; and the saudies that attacked us on 9/11 would stay in saudia arabia!
Posted By Anonymous bob ruhoy, east stroudsburg, pa : 12:04 AM ET
Having served 4 years and then returning I used my GI bill to get a degree. I learned after graduation that I had no experience specific to the job, but more maturity, maybe more seriousness, and I moved up about 4 years late. I have now hired people for many years. There is no such thing as "fear" of a veteran. It is just that knowledge and experience are all counts unless you want manual labor. I took 4 years off, knowing that was what I was doing. It worked for me, I would give any veteran preference - but only would hire him if he were competent for the job. Don't hide under excuses. Get an education and wait your turn.
Posted By Anonymous Duane, Stroud, Oklahoma : 9:09 AM ET
To AE:
That $4500 is per year, not a once-in-a-lifetime payout. I have seen many many enlisted and officers complete their entire degree while in the service, by using their $4500 per year. I get phone calls from Iraq on a daily basis, as Marines there have access to instructors, distance learning classes, and proctored testing. They continue their education even while protecting our country and Iraq.
That along with the GI Bill, which can be used to "top up", or cover the extra expense of some classes, means these people have no out of pocket expense for their education.
The key is, to work towards education while you're in the service, instead of waiting to address it once you're out.
Posted By Anonymous MSgt's Wife, Temecula CA : 11:27 AM ET
I've got news for you, guys -- we ALL are struggling to find jobs.
Posted By Anonymous Amanda Hazleton, PA : 1:26 PM ET
I do not wish to provoke any unwanted attention. As a disabled veteran from the Iraqi war, I have found my self time after time looking for work. The Department of Veteran Affairs has created a good program to help with the transition called Vocational Rehabilitation. This program pays for college and helps you find a job. The down side of the program is that when I am going to school I am expected not to work; but the reality I can�t afford to feed my family with the one thousand that is given a month. Discouragement fills my mind every month when bills are due. Education is a vital tool to survive in today�s economy but I can�t afford to keep going when I am about to lose everything I risked my life for. Society expects a degree not the knowledge but a piece of paper that says you know what you are doing; Regardless of the knowledge that is already achieved.
Posted By Anonymous Danny Mendiola, Corpus Christi Tx. : 4:00 PM ET
First off I want to say thank you so much for posting this and I see that I am not the only one. I was surprised to see that. I moved to California from Hawaii a few months ago. I returned from Iraq after being deployed with the 29th Brigade Combat Team from Hawaii. Since coming home, all the employers in the job interviews I was attending, only thing they ask me about the war in Iraq or the borders. I am the best dressed person the interviews and I see the other looking like Britney Spears in the interview. Yet they get the jobs. I really feel that these employers are not cutting off the military some slack. I have attended several career fairs and not one responded to me. One did but throughout the entire telephone conversation, she was just asking me about situation in the middle east and the borders. I will definitely share this to my family. I hope this will all change. Again I want to thank you for taking time to respond to my email. Best wishes
Posted By Anonymous SPC Mahimer, Rom Rachel Oceanside, California : 4:20 PM ET
A lot of young people are joining these days because they can't afford college or are struggling to find a job. Like the young man in one of the stories, they should take advantage of the offers from the govt. to pay for trade school or college. It would be a good idea to try and network with other vets, also. There must be places that vets are sent to help them with job skills, training and interviews. They are fighting for our freedom, the least we can do is try and help them when they return. Most businesses should be able to reach out and hire returning vets. Maybe they just need to be pushed a little harder by the govt. Maybe we should shift some of the "pork" money over to the Vet Admin. to be put to a good use! Thanks for the story.
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago,Il : 6:43 PM ET
This is in response to Amanda Hazleton, yes "we all" might be struggling to get jobs, but "WE ALL" didn't go to war and get seriusly injured" "WE ALL" didn't miss out on the birth of our child, "WE ALL" don't have to go through the rest of our lives on medication to stay normal. MY HUSBAND did and for you to make an idiotic comment like that was ignorant beyond belief. Yes, we all should get help to find a job, but for those who sacrificed their lives or part of their lives that will never get it back-they should have a little extra help.
Posted By Anonymous Mari Mendiola, Corpus Christi, Tx : 6:45 PM ET
To the Vets who are having difficulty finding work: it is nobody's fault but your own. I'm sorry to say it, but it's true.

While the country may owe you a debt of gratitude, a private, for-profit company does not. The country's gratitude comes to you in the form of free education, free job training, and free college, among other benefits. For the love of all things holy, use them!

Another thing you must do is learn to interview properly. The interview is your chance to demonstrate to a company that you have the experience, education, skills, and personality for the job. Most non-Vets have no idea what it's like to serve and have no idea what special skills you posses as a result of your service. Seriously, it's not that hard. If you're interviewing for a high-pressure job, you can emphasize your ability to perform effectively, efficiently, and professionally even in high-stress environments.

Also, realize that you are competing against college graduates for the best jobs. You either need to use your GI benefits and get your degree, or be prepared to explain why your military service makes you more qualified than your degreed competition. Just be aware that nonmilitary folks understand what college degree means. We are a little less certain what qualifications military service confers.

I've worked with many ex-military folks, so it's not impossible. Get your free degree, sharpen your interviewing skills, and you'll do just fine.
Posted By Anonymous Jimbob, Washington, DC : 11:15 AM ET
This story shocked me. I am a human resources director and a veteran of the gulf war (Navy). I work for a small family owned manufacturing firm in upstate NY. The owner is himself former military. We jump on an applicant that has a military backround. People with military training are generally more reliable, more dedicated,take pride in what they do no matter what the task, and no one but no one knows more about team work!
Posted By Anonymous Barbara Salie, Gloversville, NY : 6:44 PM ET
Mari, you're wrong. He made a career choice. It was a bad one. That does not entitle him to special treatment.
Posted By Anonymous Carrie Ann Cleveland,OH : 10:33 AM ET
Wow...a lot of emotion here. I'm an Iraqi Freedom vet, and it took months to find a job; and when I did, it was about less than half of what I was making as an Army officer. Many of my peers have had similar issues. I'm using my GI bill to get a graduate degree so I can get back to the lifestyle I was used to. I know work for a company that comes across many military resumes; bottom line, our transition programs are not properly educating our service members on how to make the transition from the military to the civilian workforce. My advice to prior service members and vets: nothing makes up for an education, not even 3 tours in the sandbox. My advice to our government: our vets (especially disabled) are national treasures; we may need to incorporate a little more assistance for them to get back on his/her feet. To potential employers: don't be frightened by words like "leadership", "under fire", or "morale, health, and welfare." It means the individual has immense courage, exceptional work ethic, and fought for your freedom.
Posted By Anonymous K Sands Colorado Springs, CO : 4:53 PM ET
We don't have jobs for our own people, but we have plenty to ship to people overseas and plenty to give to people we bring here from overseas.

A large number of the better paying skilled and technical jobs are being lost to both outsourcing and to H1B workers brought in annually by the tens of thousands. There are millions here now (nobody has an official count)and they want to raise the cap yet again and bring in even more.

Numerous minimum wage and unskilled jobs are being taken by illegal immigrants coming over the border at an estimated rate of over 3,000 per day - nobody really knows for sure and there is again no official count.

Once again, this country has money, jobs, and resources for everyone and anyone in the world except its own citizens, and the interests of everyone else in the world always seems to come first.
Posted By Anonymous Bill W, Coatesville, PA : 12:24 PM ET
The harsh reality is that since Vietnam, ALL veterans are seen as ticking bombs. This country loves to wave its flags and slap little yellow ribbon magnets on its cars, but when the rubber meets the road for the troops and the vets, most of America is out to lunch by its own deliberate choice. None of this is going to improve, if anything its going to get worse as Baby Boomer Americans get older and more anal. The only hope for y'all is to follow the advice of some of the more successful vets and adapt and overcome. Oh, and no, Jimbob, there is no 'free' education and training etc afterward.
Posted By Anonymous Stan, Scotrun, PA : 8:43 PM ET
What really strikes is the lack of empathy and compassion from some of the commenters, particularly those who seem to be in the non-veteran and 20 and 30-nothing category. Strangely considering the America of 2007, I'm not the least bit surprised.
Posted By Anonymous Spin Boldak, Avuncular, AK : 8:53 PM ET
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