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U.S. troop drawdown in Iraq shifts into high gear virtually all of the 39,000 troops still in Iraq in October will be withdrawn by December 31.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. AcclaimedMan

    If we treat them as unwanted after they served their country for our safety by willing to sacrifice their OWN LIVES, then why do you think Uncle Sam is going to expect a lots of our youngsters are going enlist themselves for our service. And these greedy corporates making billions of profits should be proactive to make sure NONE, I repeat NOT A SINGLE of our first class elite men and women are left without a job, and should feel that they are not doing them a favor, rather display a token of love and acceptance JUST because of their service to the nation.

    We, as civilians, should keep this in our mind as well and extend our helping hand to our capacity to serve them at some point. Then the nation will always move forward and our protection will be guaranteed by these, and future, excellent men and women who have already proved their worthiness.

    Now I can imagine how the seriously injured servicemen must be going through.

    If I was a CEO of a corporation, then I would first prefer these men and women over the rest of us. But my promise whenever I become an employer, my first preference would be from these elites and these quality people !!!

    This is not only applicable for USA, but also true for any country in the world.

    November 11, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • sybaris

      Those are nice sentiments but a little misguided.

      Like myself, if you were in the military during the last 35 years, you volunteered...........knowing full well the possible consequences of service. There's nothing, absolutely nothing that says you are promised a job when/if you get out. You choose your occupation in the military. If it's not an occupation that easily translates to a civilian job then be prepared.

      The fact that there's 12% unemployment among vets today is not a failing of industry, public policy or even Obama. It's simply an indicator that the military requires individuals with unique skill sets that most of the civilian world does not.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Wade

      Actually, you don't always choose your job in the military. Many soldiers that go in with a "guaranteed" job billet are then moved into a new job "for the good of the service". This is done after they have already quit civilian jobs and finished boot camp. Their only choice is to get out on an entry level separation or do the job the service told them to.

      Make sure you know what you are talking about before opening your crap-hole.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Dixon

      @sybaris Just because these brave individuals volunteered to serve knowing the possible consequences isn't a reason to deminish their service. I remember this kind of copout from just after Vietnam. The bigger question is why do we need to insentivize a business to hire the Vet. Some do have very specialized jobs that do not cross over. However, if you look back to Iraq you will find many Vets who served by watching Civilian Contractors do the jobs they were trained to do.The only difference being the contractors were much more costly. We should be using these highly skilled and motivated people to do the jobs they were trained for. The work would be completed with better quality, on time and under budget unlike the private sector.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
    • holly

      ...actually ....illegal aliens have created a network whereas they get first choice. Get the FACTs: NumbersUSA

      November 12, 2011 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
  2. D

    Looks like Obama just purchased another round of votes and didn't even have to spend a single penny in campaign contributions

    November 11, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Harry

      D,
      As long as our veterans got jobs, I don't care which political party that person belongs to!

      November 11, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      Why do veterans deserve jobs more than any other person? They're the ones that decided to join, not me, so why do I have to pay to get them a job?

      November 11, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mikelike

      The govenrent subsidized senoirs and mentally handicapped people vets sound just as good an idea. I know why do compaines jire vets on thier own..even better idea huh?

      November 12, 2011 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
    • bill

      They paid 4 years of their life to protect our freedoms. Without them you would have no freedoms... no money... nothing. We owe every veteran. Because without them a dictator would control all the oil. Without them Hitler would have killed everyone in the world except the blond hair blue eyed. Without them the brits would own us... i can go on... but vets are the ones responsible for everything we have... no matter how hard you may work... they worked harder, and gave up more... There should be jobs waiting for them...

      November 12, 2011 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Dixon

      @D if business could do the right thing rather that need to be insentivized to do it this would not be a political issue. Thankfully Obama did the only thing a business understands, more profit. It is just to bad he had to.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. electricgrendel

    So- basically the problem for veterans is the problem for most people applying for jobs. HR representatives are staggering idiots.

    November 11, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • exnational guard

      one question that keep coming up at job interviews was. do you think you will be called back up to go to war. the next one would be have you applied at the factory down the road.
      when are you going to be called back up. its almost like when your out they think you can be called back up or your still in the service.

      most are afraid you will be heading out to war be for the ink on the paper work is done. sad to say but HR departments have no clue as to what being ex military is. i have been out for 10 years and still get the confused look when they ask if can still be called back up.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Christina

    One of the problems is that your military experience far out weighs the civilian job. So you end up with a job that is beneath your training. Plus yes when you get deployed as a reservist they are required to keep your job. But when you come back they can make the job miserable in order to make you want to leave. This is what I went through. I havent had a tough time finding a job but a tough time finding a job that I can utilize all my skills that Ive learned in the military. Ive taken a step back working in the civilian world. I think the bonus is really unfair, we should'nt be paying people to hire one person over the other it should be based on your experience. Instead pass a abill that lets us test on degrees or certifications so that our military experience is now matched with civilian needs. Example a medic should be able to challenge the LPN board considering we praticially do a RN's job in the military.

    November 11, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • GHost1129

      You can test out of certs and college, your GI bill takes care of that, pays for CLEP, DANTES, etc... and now the new 9/11 pays for certs and tech degrees

      November 11, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Anne

    So, I am an HR Manager at a Fortune 100 company. (I'll brace myself for the backlash after admitting that.) I think it really depends on the company, manager, and the job. Managers do typically want the most experienced candidates (in general, not just related to vets vs. civilian) because it's the easier path. They would rather hire someone who can hit the ground running vs. taking the time to train high potential. On the flip side, I have also seen good managers (and good companies) take the chance on high potential where it really pays off with someone who could be a future leader. I personally think there need to be more volunteer corporate programs where companies volunteer their time to vets in helping them with the transition to civilian work. In reading some of the vet comments about their transition program, it sounds like it would be helpful to have more networking opportunities and mentors through companies that can lead to future positions. In my experience, networking is the key to any job. I think companies in the U.S. should be lending their support in transition programs in appreciation for those who have served our country.

    November 11, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • holly

      ...but illegal aliens do? Get your FACTS STRAIGHT. NumbersUSA

      November 11, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dixon

      @Anne I agree with what you are saying. The only issue is a business is only looking to the bottom line, so they will wait for the government to do any programs to assist. In the end where would most business be with out the veterans. You know as well as anyone that Business is the biggest winner from the sacrifices of the Vets. You see all the distrespect from people's comments who you know never served anyone but themselves. I am looking at one just above this space, John F, who more than likely was subsidized by the government in some way. He is much like the others who only have disrespectful and hurtful comments here. He doesn't understand the sacrifice others make for him because he doesn't sacrifice for anyone but himself.

      November 12, 2011 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Anne

      Agreed on the disrespectful comments. Completely sickens me when people in this country say such things when it was those who served protecting them!

      November 12, 2011 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
  6. joeinalabama

    I suspect that what your MOS/ training in the military was will have a large effect on the ability to find a civilian job. I am retired now, but I spent 3 years in the army in the 60's. My training was in electronics for a missile system, and the training served me well in the civilian job market. I worked about 40 years in electronics for 3 or 4 different companies. I also went to school some while I was working.

    November 11, 2011 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • jeff

      This article hits on a key point for licensing and credentials. Another thing that the military can do better is have civilians, preferable HR professionals, lead the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) courses that all military personnel attend to prepare them for the civilian job market. Most if not all TAP courses are currently taught by career federal employees and all they can teach the veterans is how to find a federal job. That is not particularly useful in any job market but it is almost entirely useless in this one. Most veterans thus leave the service ill-equipped to land a great civilian job.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mikelike

    America has become a caste system and veterans are the untouchables.
    Hr sees anything military on an app and they move on. Period, doesnt have any thing to do with qualifications, they don't even bother to read them.
    I know its veterans day and you all want to feel good about yourselves but not being qualified isn't the reason why they arn't hired. It would be so nice if that was the way it worked but most people are hired by who they know not what they know. Companies really hate gaurdsmen and reservists who are still under contract. They avoid them like the plague. Even companies that are not even open on the weekends. Everybody I know in it is self employed, a college student or works for the government. Now that the private sector is paying a fraction of what it used to but the public sector has remained steady finding those jobs is even harder.

    November 11, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • molson

      Resume 101. Do not reference "Project Alliance" ot the "M8209 Program" like it means something to anyone other than yourself. Better to say "led a group of 8 in an international initiative involving airplane system optimization". Not that hard to make a strong resume using the civilian translation. Happy Vets Day by the way – I do appreciate your service and hope the above helps.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Mikelike

      Molson: Ah yeah... my resume reads nothing like that. I try to keep it even simpler than what you said. I think they find Hr off the steet these days.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
  8. Michael

    I have been in the Navy for 20 years and about to retire in May. I will say that part of the problem is lack or preperation on behalf of our young military members. I run a department of 285 personel with the average age being about 22 years old. I can tell you, many of them don't belong, and most that stay around don't prepaire for any life after their service be it 6 years or 22. I was fortunate enough to have a Chief that DEMANDED that I take college courses, get civilian certs, and look forward to a life outside of the Navy.....and that was when I was at my 8 year mark! I can say this, if you have an active security clearance, and reasonable skills, you will not have a problem getting a job. Thing is, most of the trigger pullers, tank drivers, Airmen and such dont have alot of the skills that would be seen as marketable on the outside. It has always been my job as a Chief to keep my Sailors in the know, make sure that I give them the opportunity to grow and learn....thats all I could do..the rest is up to them!! Example: I had a young Sailor kick and scream at me because I put him in a specific job that he did not want to do, actually, he hated me for it...Now, he is doing the same job as a civ. contractor making 100K. He actually thanked me for pushing him and is trying to help me find a job on the outside. You never know where your leadership of others may lead you! Keep your heads up!

    November 11, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Near Border

    My experience is that many vets do not have the skill set for civilian jobs. In computers their skills tend to be very specific and limited and impractical. I would say the same to any vet that I would say to any college graduate. If you can get a great job fantastic, but no job should be below you. I would work at a fast food restaurant if that was all that was available.

    November 11, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mikelike

      My experience is that people like to tell themselves that so they can sleep at night.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  10. D

    Why do we taxpayers have to subsidize employers to hire veterans? veterans can go to college for free in the Military on our dime as it is!! (and their kids and spouse)

    wth is wrong with people

    November 11, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sean

      Hey idiot, stop disseminating false information.

      My wife is in her second year at Penn State and I have to pay for every penny.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      And its called sacrifice....you benefit by having a safe and secure environment to live, work, and play. In return Veterans, who i might add died and risked their lives giving that to you, get taken care of for their sacrifice.

      If you dont like it...get your lazy ass to the recruiter. Otherwise, shut up.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • team31

      Thanks for your money! I enjoyed every penny that you put into my education fund, I now hold a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering with no debt and has a fairly nice job as well. Thanks again! LOL.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
    • SpeaktheTruth101

      D, where do you get your information because it is terribly inaccurate. Advanced civil schooling is only subsidized by the government for military personnel. It is by no means paid in full. On average, military personnel still end up paying for about half of their schooling, depending on the college they decide to attend and the cost of classes. Everyone continually says that military personnel don't deserve preferential treatment because they 'volunteered' to join.
      Yes, they volunteered to do something beyond themselves for the protection of the country, including every American citizen's protection and freedoms. They are deployed to a combat environment (usually deployed to combat longer than the time they spend in the states), constantly placed in harm's way, pushed to maximum physical and mental capabilities, and dismally underpaid for all that they are asked to do and responsibility they are given and burden they must carry, all because their country ordered them to do that.
      What have you done to benefit this country. You obviously have never served anything beyond yourself, because if you did then you wouldn't be posting ignorant comments.
      Do you at least contribute to the GDP? Are you at all a productive member of society? I'm guessing that you aren't because if you were, then you wouldn't be leaving multiple negative posts on here because you would have more to do with your time and you wouldn't have such anger toward people who sacrifice everyday by leaving their spouses, children, and parents behind to fight for the security of this nation and protect the rights of Aghanis and Iraqis so that they might have the opportunity for a prosperous and persecution-free future.

      Since you have a problem with the government paying toward veterans' educations, let me ask you a question. Why did the government create Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to give out government-subsized home mortgage loans to poverty-stricken and underpriveleged civilians in the US? Was that not even a greater risk and waste of government funds. Does everyone have the RIGHT to own a house? Is that an investment for the future? Probably not.... since it's what created the whole housing market bubble to begin with.
      However, knowing that you have hard-working, yes, hard-working American citizens who have all the attributes for which civilian corporations look (including loyalty, respect, vast leadership experience, and the drive to accomplish any task), giving government-subsidized education would be a no-brainer because you know that the vast majority of them will be successful and productive.
      Go back to doing your minimum wage work and Wall Street protesting while being just another unproductive member of society.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
    • D

      oh nice, thanks for the unsolicited personal attacks just for sharing my opinion. Something tells me you people are ex/current military. Don't you think that adds a LITTLE bias to your opinion? For your information I'm a successful professional who holds a bachelor's degree and makes more than all of you ever will (according to the Military Pay Chart 2011) so knock it off with the 'lazy bum' attacks. You ungrateful people want my money? come ask for it with a please.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
    • holly

      ...in CA illegal aliens get their college paid for and first choice in jobs. Want this madness to stop? While our vets are unemployed, and many homeless. Get the Facts: NumbersUSA

      November 12, 2011 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Dixon

      @ D Your information is so false it is embarrasing for you. Why do you hate so much? I was a very fortunate Vets who served just as the Vietnam war was ending. Back when they told us not to wear our uniforms to travel because of people like you. I never saw war and wish no person ever had to. The people who do volunteer to risk everything should be given what ever it takes to come home and be happy. Just because you offered nothing to this country, but expect everything handed to you is no reason to hate on the best citizens we have to offer. You and people like you are the reason this country is so far behind in so many ways. Thankfully we have the Vets who balance that disgrace.

      November 12, 2011 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
    • SpeaktheTruth101

      I'm so glad that you hold a bachelor's degree. Congratulations on your very awe-inspiring accomplishment (end satire). You're right. I was in the military through a command and was able to see, first hand, the hardships all young men and women have to face while deployed. It's a shame that you acquire your info from reading CNN and MSNBC and actually take what is written as fact. Talk to someone who has actually deployed multiple times who has had to cross the wire on a daily basis... maybe you'll change your perspective some.

      Oh... and I have an MBA, an executive position with a reputable company, which will remain unnamed, and several professional certificates, most of which was paid in part from GI bills and government programs. And I make it a point to hire well-rounded and stable veterans because 9 times out of 10, they will work harder, work weekends if necessary, and be able to improvise and make quick, sound decisions in my absense.

      November 12, 2011 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Les

      D, I am glad to hear that you are so successful. I am not surprised that you make more than any of us veterans ever will, but I am curious if you have the strength of character to set that great job aside, leave your family and friends and travel to a far way, backward country, live in a tent, and be shot at, simply so that strangers in your home country can become successful without fear of being a target for a terrorist?
      Yes, I volunteered for that, could you? Would you?
      I do not want a free ride to the top of the ladder, I just want to the same opportunity as the college grad next to me in line for the job.
      Unfortunately for me, while you were learning the corporate buzz words, I was learning military jargon. The HR person understands you, but they can't understand how planning a base defense could have any bearing in the business world.

      November 12, 2011 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
  11. molson

    Resume 101. Do not reference "Project Alliance" ot the "M8209 Program" like it means something to anyone other than yourself. Better to say "led a group of 8 in an international initiative involving airplane system optimization". Not that hard to make a strong resume using the civilian translation. Happy Vets Day by the way – I do appreciate your service and hope the above helps.

    November 12, 2011 at 12:16 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Fred. S.

    Torture, kidnapping, murder, and mass conformity.

    November 12, 2011 at 12:34 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • may613

      ^^^ Idiot. Enough said.

      November 12, 2011 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  13. Fred. S.

    In memory of the millions worlwide killed by Amerikan biological warfare in World War I,
    don't hire an Amerikan military veteran for anything.
    Maybe if they defect to Switzerland and confess to the War Crimes Tribunal.
    Otherwise, they can go to Hell.

    November 12, 2011 at 12:39 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. MS

    Well I think I can speak quite well on this topic... I spent 6 years as a Corpsman.. did my combat deployments and decided to get out to persue other goals in life... First and foremost the "TAP" program.. Transition Assistance... its GARBAGE.. ran by a bunch of retired GS people who dont have the slightest clue what they are talking about 99.9 percent of the time. Whereas we do qualify for unemployment when we get out it doesn't help much with the job search. Personally it was worth it to me just to buckle down and get my EMT – I which I paid for on my own dime and head back out as a private contractor..
    But no, from the medical perspective my training... my time spent as an Instructor of medicine... my experience in trauma downrange... my qualifications in aviation medicine.. they = to nothing when I got out unless I wanted to be a CNA "Certified Nursing Assistant" which was an insult, due to the fact I could work circles around any RN in a hospital and had triple the exposure medically than they had gotten. The Military doesnt take any of that into consideration because they dont care... your out... your not their problem anymore.
    I have found most of my counterparts simply get out and are lost, they have absolutely no idea what to do... most dont even really know how to go about getting the ball started on college. The military as a whole has failed US, until they are pulled up on the rug and forced to examine the programs they half heartedly created which failed... nothing will ever change.

    If your in a bind and need a job... Go out and get your EMT certs... go contract... end of story

    November 12, 2011 at 12:48 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dixon

      @MS I am sorry how this happened to you and others. I want you to know that most of us do thank you for your service and hold the highest respect for what you have done. I wish there were an easy way to make your home coming mkore of what you deserve.

      November 12, 2011 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
  15. John F

    They are trained to follow orders.. here's an order. Get a job or join the unemployment line.

    November 12, 2011 at 12:51 am | Report abuse | Reply
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