The Retired Investor: America’s Veterans Gain Jobs /

By Bill SchmickChronicler of the iBerkshires

The unemployment rate for veterans in the United States is 2.5%. That’s 1.2 percentage points lower than the national unemployment rate. Much of this downward trend in unemployment can be attributed to the success of corporate and government hiring, training and education programs.

Today, veterans make up 7% of the civilian population, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so that’s good news for the overall economy. Certainly, the tight labor market and demand for workers after the COVID-19 pandemic has helped anyone looking for a job to find one.

In the case of veterans, they received additional help from the US military, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and various veterans service organizations to prepare them to re-enter the US workforce. Additionally, American companies have launched their own initiatives which have also successfully hired hundreds of thousands of veterinarians.

It has not always been so.

Much of the impetus for this combined effort was triggered by the Great Recession and the shortage of jobs available to returning service members who have been damaged and stressed by their service in Afghanistan and Iraq. The credit goes to President Barack Obama who implemented several service initiatives supported by a bipartisan Congress.

Today among businesses, veterans are considered an exceptional class of Americans. Thanks to government programs that provide tax breaks, wage subsidies, and regulatory benefits, the risk of hiring veterinarians has been significantly reduced.

Gains in employment rates are good news for veterans. Some readers might wonder why these former members of an extremely capable fighting machine need all that extra help. This grim batch of statistics regarding our nation’s heroes could give you several reasons:

Since 9/11, four times as many American servicemen have died at their hands than combat deaths. Of all homeless adults, 13% are veterans, and PTSD affects 15 out of every 100 veterans daily.

I can sympathize. At the time, my job search suffered after returning from Vietnam. Part of this difficulty stemmed from the backlash I received from employers who equated my service with an unpopular and contentious war. I also know what it means to have PTSD.

I count myself lucky because I benefited from the help I received from the psychology department of a local university that I attended on the GI Bill. Yet many years later, while paddling the Amazon River on vacation with my teenage daughter, I suffered from constant flashbacks and nightmares in those jungles and after for days.

In any case, I can attest that many veterans can feel isolated once separated from their band of brothers. It’s even worse for female veterans, who relied on sisterhood to navigate a male-dominated army. More than 70% of a national survey of 4,700 female veterans admitted it was difficult adjusting to civilian life.

For many vets, it can take years to find a new identity, job, and purpose in life. Employers say vets bring specific skills like leadership ability and a strong sense of mission to the job. However, companies looking to hire can sometimes be disappointed because a position that seemed ideal on paper doesn’t work out that way once the vet is hired.

A mistake many vets have made is accepting work similar to what they did in the ward, only to trigger unexpected reactions. A military convoy truck driver, for example, may find that their new FedEx job only compounds the negative feelings of their combat experience. This is one of the reasons why more than 50% of vets who return to the workforce quit and find a second job within a year.

Fortunately, government and corporations are now aware of the unique pitfalls that veterinarians face and have developed all kinds of successful retraining programs that exist within corporations, various government organizations, and the non-profit sector.

At my old alma mater, Forbes Magazine, a list of America’s “Best Employers for Veterans,” is now in its third year of publication. Forbes partnered with a market research firm, Statista, to survey 7,000 American veterans working for American companies employing 1,000 or more people. Two hundred companies received the highest score, with aerospace and defense companies claiming the top three spots.

Government services took 24 places in the list with NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Commerce leading the public sector pack. Perhaps one of the reasons the government is so strongly represented is that veterans are given preference over other applicants for nearly all federal government jobs.

Overall, veterans today have an enormous number of avenues available to them, and for the most part, most military veterans are willing and able to take advantage of them. That doesn’t mean they won’t need our help in the future. If a country is ready for war, in my opinion, the greater the obligation to take care of those who fought.

Bill Schmick is the founding partner of Onota Partners, Inc., in the Berkshires. His forecasts and opinions are purely his own and do not necessarily represent the views of Onota Partners Inc. (OPI). None of his comments are or should be considered investment advice. Direct inquiries to Bill at 1-413-347-2401 or email him at [email protected]

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