Why many vets are struggling to get jobs
Some troops’ skills are great for civilian jobs, but licensing and jargon sometimes keep them from getting offers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says.
November 11th, 2011
01:29 PM ET

Why many vets are struggling to get jobs

They worked in some of the most adverse conditions in the world, often achieving their missions while under fire on the battlefield. But while the men and women of the U.S. military are highly trained in job skills and leadership, their experience doesn't always immediately translate into jobs in the civilian sector.

(Click the audio player to hear more on this story from CNN Radio's Steve Kastenbaum)


The unemployment rate among veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is several points higher than the national average. The unemployment rate for veterans who left the military after 2001 was 12.1% last month, leaving about 240,000 veterans out of work, according to the White House. The national jobless rate is 9%, according the Department of Labor.

Fourteen percent of veterans who served in the National Guard or Reserve units are jobless, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business association.

And the rate is worse for all post-9/11 veterans under the age of 24, said Kevin Schmiegel, the chamber’s vice president of veterans’ employment programs. "Roughly one out of every four in that cohort is out of a job," he said.

Veterans’ unemployment rate is expected to rise as the U.S. troop drawdown in Iraq shifts into high gear virtually all of the 39,000 troops still in Iraq in October will be withdrawn by December 31. Also, about 100,000 National Guard members and reservists will be demobilized in the coming months. Most of those men and women will enter the civilian job market.

The U.S. House next week is expected to pass a bill already passed by the Senate that will give employers up to a $5,600 tax credit for hiring a veteran who has been unemployed for six months.

But the incentive may not be enough for many veterans to get a job.

Recent veterans have a hard time translating their training and experience into terms that a human resources manager can understand, Schmiegel said.

"What they often do ... when they stand in front of employers is they use military jargon, and it becomes confusing to HR managers who may have not served in the military and don't understand the value of hiring a veteran," Schmiegel said.

Schmiegel said veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have a tremendous amount of training and experience, but the private sector requires paperwork to prove it.

"We have young men and women, thousands and thousands of them, that have driven trucks and heavy machinery in the military, but they can't go immediately into a private sector job because they don't have a credential or a license in that state," Schmiegel said. "You have corpsmen and medics in the Navy and the Army who can't get jobs as (emergency medical technicians) in the private sector working at hospitals and the like because they have to go through rigorous credentialing and licensing. So, we have to start looking at doing those things before they leave [the military]."

The bill that the House is expected to pass next week, besides offering tax incentives to hire veterans, also would attempt to address the licensing obstacle. The bill would create a project directing the Labor Department to figure out ways for veterans to use their specialized training to get licenses in different fields in the civilian work force.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is helping veterans sell themselves to potential employers with a program called Hire Our Heroes. They're putting on 100 job fairs across the country as they try to match qualified veterans with job openings in their areas.

K.C. Baney showed up at one of those job fairs in New Jersey a few weeks ago. The 36-year-old from Island Heights, New Jersey, spent 10 years in the U.S. Army and served in some of the most dangerous places in the world. "It was time to be around for my two little girls and stop being shot at, so it was time to carve a new path in life," Baney said.

He knew he was entering a tough job market for veterans. The challenge for Baney was taking what he learned in his military training and experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and making it applicable to a civilian work environment. "A lot of that gets lost in translation, if you will, between some companies not really understanding what you did and what you went through, and what you're able to achieve, perform and provide to a company in the civilian sector."

Baney wound up being hired by Hecht Trailers in Toms River, New Jersey. The family-run business rents, sells and repairs just about everything that can be hooked up to a trailer hitch. Manager Mark Blue said they hired three veterans that they met at the Hire Our Heroes job fair.

"They want to come to work every single day. They're hard-working because they've been brought up that way through their military," Blue said.

– CNNMoney's Jennifer Liberto contributed to this report.

You can listen to the CNN Radio Reports podcast on itunes or subscribe to the podcast here.

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Filed under: Economy • Jobs • Military • Veterans • War
soundoff (296 Responses)
  1. Macs

    Judging by the comments on here, it is very obvious how many people haven't served their country and have no idea of the sacrifice these young men and women have made. The lack of respect and appreciation is so saddening.

    November 12, 2011 at 6:45 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • jones

      I just got a job at a pizza shop the person in charge is using me for the $5,600 tax credit for hiring a veteran. I don't get any hours. Its bad enough i was used to take bullets for a political war, but being used for a tax credit by the american people theirs something wrong their. Rome did not last forever is america in the same boat. Up state new York Obama their are no new jobs up here. If you just told the truth to the american people i would respect you more you would get my vote. We are people to just be real with use. red movement for veterans!!!!!!!

      May 6, 2012 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
    • jones

      some rich people with nothing to do lol. put a gun in their hands and they would be like what do i do lol. I have been looking for a job for a year now. I have a house and rent it out because i have no money and no job. Lol i went to lows the building store applied to like 4 jobs online did not get one of them. I hope i was qualified for the job or i would feel studied lol. I have to watch what i say on here don't want to get myself in any trouble cnn likes the cia of media lol. join the red movement for veterans fight against jobless, homeless, vets world wide, remember we are not the only country fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. power world wide red movement up in coming!

      May 6, 2012 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
  2. brant3

    Got any jobs down at Crawford Mr Bush?

    November 12, 2011 at 8:12 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. KP

    Serving your country? Not a job qualification. Getting shot at? Not a job qualification. Working in adverse conditions? Rarely a job qualification. Spending a decade in a job perceived to squelch individuality and creative thinking? Not an attractive qualification. Working for the government where unlike many posting here would have you believe, there are just as many slackers as the private sector, plus, unlike the private sector, it is notoriously hard to get fired for poor work? Not an attractive qualification. Touting your work ethic, teamwork, and ability to quickly learn on the job? The catchphrases of every interviewee who is not directly qualified for a position.

    Hate to say it, but if you're bringing more than 3 years of "experience" to a position, employers are going to expect to see more than a vet thinking he/she deserves a job because they're patriotic. Instead of leeching taxpayer money in the form of unemployment, I would much rather you leech taxpayer money in the form of the GI Bill and become qualified for positions that can't be outsourced.

    November 12, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • sybaris

      Very astute observations. You must work with gov civilians.

      What I find interesting is that many of the sympathizers posting here infer military service is a transitory occupation like flippin' burgers. That mentality is part of the problem. Military service is a profession just like any other and its members have the same risks as civilians when considering a career change..................unemployment!

      Sorry, wearing a uniform does not inherently reserve a civilian occupation should you CHOOSE to leave the service.

      November 12, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Jules

      I have worked with British military, American military, British govt., American Govt., in private companies in Britain and the US and quite frankly I think you are disgusting, KP and Sybaris. I think we truly do owe the military people who have served overseas. 9/11 wasn't that long ago and the same kind of terrorist activity could happen again – that is why we took the fight overseas to try and change the extremism in places like Afghanistan. I have worked with some total idiots in the privae sector who don't deserve to be in the positions they are in but somehow managed to get hired. Conversely, I have worked with some exceptionally bright and well-trained military personnel and govt. workers. What I have found is that private businesses these days don't want to invest in training of their personnel whereas the military still does train them, aswell as the govt.. I also have found since moving to America that many small companies are run by people who really don't have a clue and have inherited their businesses through family such as parents; whilst the parents may have been bright enough and hard working enough to amass the capital and ideas to run a successful business, the offspring the handed it down didn't have these attributes. Also would love to know what your take on the financial services industry since it seems that the banks and Wall Street don't seem to have a clue what they're doing and have certainly contributed a great deal to this whole financial mess. Throw in the private car companies that through years of mismanagement didn't put away enough to cover their obligations to retirees and we have a recipe for disaster. So basically I'm saying that from what I've seen of the private sector, it's nothing to brag about either.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • sybaris

      I understand where you're coming from Jules but just like many of the other posters your comments are more emotional than practical.

      November 12, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jules

    Sorry about the typos!

    November 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. AntiBanks

    Whats a big deal about these new tax credits... Most of these big Companys don pay any taxes anyway.

    November 12, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Avser Bastian

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    November 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Avser Bastian

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    November 12, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Joe spratt

    I saw a quote attributed to Fareed that said wars were easy to start and hard to stop. I believe the actual quote bi Liddel Hart was, wars are easy to start, difficult to fight and almost impossible to stop.

    November 12, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    Look at what you could do going into the military.
    Your much appreciated (and paid) service may teach you to "show up" for work, but if you can't even speak–and read and write, please–English properly, there's no way I'll hire you. The young man who cleans my Manhattan apartment speaks five languages and is glad to make the money.
    I know a rich heart surgeon who studied medicine on educational benefits from his service.
    He didn't come home and expect a job right away.
    He will always be RICH.

    November 13, 2011 at 4:45 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. ronvan

    While I totally agree that all of our veterans deserve alot better than they are getting, it always concerns me that the FULL story is not always told. Qualifications, capabilities, etc., for me, are not the defining descriptions. There is a BIG difference from a soldier that has an education and is in a position of leadership! For example, an officer, normally with a college degree, that leads soldiers, has more to put on a resume than lets say an enlisted soldier with a high school diploma and follows orders. And don't get me wrong. As a 23yr. Army Viet Nam Vet. I have seen officers that were,
    lets say, below par, and enlisted soldiers that would have made excellent leaders. The bottom line is that those with the education and leadership will ALWAYS have an advantage over those that do not!

    November 13, 2011 at 9:05 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Gary's point of view

    Regardless of your view on Vets being hired for work after returning home, let me put this out there. Veterans, without a doubt, do know how to work under pressure. Skilled in getting the job done, even at the cost of his/her own life, can be a great asset to whoever might hire them. Granted, just being motivated and able to lead a team may not be all that is required, adding in the absolute need to have certain skill sets to meet the requirements of the company to work for. But it is my experience that regardless of your time in service, rank and position aquired during that service and your own opinion of what a great member of the team you might be, there is one roadblock to which you have no control. Civilians see almost all military events as being "canned" and rarely subject to failure. Having 122 soldiers to house, feed, clothe and outfit, along with train and bring back home alive from a war zone are all massive responsibilities...none the less "canned" to the civilian employer...been there, done that.

    November 13, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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