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troop drawdown in Iraq shifts into high gear - virtually all of the 39,000 troops still in Iraq in October will be withdrawn by December 31.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

    civilians say thank you for your service......

    November 11, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. s kel

    it must have been horriable, im glad you went and not me...

    November 11, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melissa

      You're a jerk and you can't spell. Good for you!

      November 11, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darf Vader

      It's a good thing that you didn't go...but you should have at least attempted to get a decent education.

      November 12, 2011 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
  3. s kel

    sorry but I need the job more!

    November 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jessy

      I dare you to say that to an unemployed veteran (in person) and see what happens.

      November 11, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mikelike

      become literate, maybe the world will open up for you.

      November 12, 2011 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
  4. Maddy

    How very sad that these veterans come home to the dying economy that was caused by the wars they fought in.

    November 11, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • medstudentvet

      Actually, what is propping up the economy and greatly enriching americans in general, is the petrodollar and the use of the dollar as the world's reserve currency. This basically allows america to tax the entire world in exchange for providing security. So actually the quality of life in america is built largely on the work of military people. The economic problems come from americans being consumption heavy and production anemic. You, Maddy, are sucking on the teat of members of the armed service as you live you relatively comfortable life. Anti veteran prejudice by the very people who veterans sacrifice so much for, is a big part of the reason why vets don't catch a break coming back.

      November 11, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • KB

      And the nut job talking about sucking on a teat... Ya know you are not thinking right when you make statements like that. If we are reliant on a military economy, then we are in the last stages of a dying civilization. No society in human history that waged war and relied on the military for economic benefit ever survived. There are reasons why: A war based civilization does not produce enough goods to sustain itself. A war based society will eventually be over run by the enemies that it created over the years. So, we are indeed in serious trouble...

      November 11, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • medstudentvet

      Rome seemed to do it fairly well for over 400 years via taxation. The way we tax is less direct. our military allows us to have the petrodollar... all oil must be bought in dollars, and the global reserve currency. As a consequence this means that there are far more dollars outside of the US than inside of the US. So when the government prints currency and devalues the currency via inflation, value is taken out of those dollars and spent by the US. If it wasn't for this, our currency would have gone the way of Greece long ago. It is you sir who doesn't understand the nuances of how the world works and you who have drank the rhetorical kool aid of the nay sayers who disparage the fine job of the US military out of ignorance. You don't deserve to live in the prosperity my brothers have bought you with their blood. And now you wont give them a job. For instance, when I was interviewing at medical schools, 3 programs UCLA, UCI, and OSU had interviewers who accused me of having PTSD and I was not offered admissions at those programs despite higher than average MCAT and GPA possibly because I served as an Infantryman in a time of war. I know for a fact that this prejudice exists among many with liberal leanings and it is pathetic.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Mikelike

      Yeah the economy would've folded years ago much worse if not for the wars. It gave a few more breaths to the convulsing body on the floor.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
  5. Portland tony

    Show me a man or woman who goes to work every day and expects to get shot at....and I'll show you a mature dedicated professional worker no matter their job discipline.

    November 11, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • KB

      Ohh really... how about all the crazy Vietnam vets that we ahve now.. Those with ehad wounds who can'ty think or have severe trauma... They were mature and dedicated before they went into the military...

      November 11, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bryant

      Really KB? Name one.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mikelike


      Ohh really... how about all the crazy Vietnam vets that we ahve now.. Those with ehad wounds who can'ty think or have severe trauma... They were mature and dedicated before they went into the military...

      I bet they could type up a more coherent message than this.

      November 12, 2011 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
  6. PAPilot

    They have trouble because they spend 4-8 years being taught that killing is fun and a good thing to do.

    November 11, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • vahellbilly

      Evidently you have not had the courage to enlist or serve... You are 100% mistaken on points you presented. Do your homework, before espousing stupidity and making blind and uneducated statements.

      Happy Veteran's Day!!

      November 11, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • JayBizzell

      PA Pilot, that was way off course. How can you even think of something like that? Your statement is 100% wrong. They are not taught to kill...they are taught to do whats necessary to get the mission complete and to keep themselves alive.

      Put it this way, as a pilot, your trained how to operate during emergencies. Its the same way with the military. They are put in scenarios/situations where they must operate to get the mission completed. If that requires shooting somebody so that they can protect themselves, that's part of the process.

      Getting the mission completed is what they are taught...

      November 11, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      What an ignorant, inflammatory statement to make.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jarhead

      Not sure where you get your info from, but as a Marine I am not taught that killing is fun and a good thing to do. I was taught and trained by 1 very simple idea. 2 men engage in battle, 1 will go home alive. Be that 1. It is about survival so that you can return safely home. No war is ever a good thing, but when you have a job to do, you do it the best you can.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • wes

      That is one of THE MOST IGNORANT statements I've ever heard...I dont believe any of us Vets were trained to think Killing is fun, but neccessary. Those who serve have a JOB to do. Who else is gonna do it? You??? I think not! If we as service members neglect our JOBS we can and will be punished by the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. So why dont you try being thankful instead of judgmental...

      November 11, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • AFVet

      And you have obviously spent your entire life as an unappreciative person who has absolutely no clue as what it is like to serve.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jessy

      I was in the Air Force working as a pharmacy technician. They never taught me to kill patients. Quite the opposite... they taught me to keep them alive.

      November 11, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred. S.

      Another problem is that conformist thugs like "Alex" can't stand the truth.

      November 12, 2011 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |
    • BrontosaurusRex

      Awesome comment from someone who has no military experience but likes to speak about it as if they were an expert.

      What ignorance.

      It's people like you that make me sometimes regret volunteering to defend your stupidity.

      November 12, 2011 at 4:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Jules

      What a load of crap. They are not taught that killing is fun. Yes, some are taught to shoot weapons and some special units are taught to kill but they are not taught that it is fun – they are taught to carry out a mission. What absolutely rubbish you are spewing. I've known people who worked in certain combat jobs and they are as normal as anyone else; in fact, you read about a lot more crazy private industry people who go crazy and kill their co-workers after they get fired.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dr.RUFFNUTT

    KEEP buying stuff at walmart... 🙂

    November 11, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Prometheus

    This article is spot on. I served for nearly 21 years from the age of 18 in the "Bomb-Squad" but at 14 years in I developed type-1 diabetes due to my over-active immune system killing all my eyelet cells in my pancreas. I had to get my local congressman involved to stay in until retirement at 20-years.

    When I got out, despite having one of the 'most in-demand' skill sets available I could not find anyone willing to employ me...at all. (Diabetes sucks...it allows people to deny you employment almost like you were a Felon)

    So yeah...best job I have been able to get so far? As a delivery driver for Papa John's Pizza... >.< So much for my 'millions of dollars worth of training' and priceless experience, eh?

    November 11, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • dr.RUFFNUTT

      i work at pizza hut.. do the muslims tip there?

      November 11, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. HR Guy

    I am a recruiter for an employer that employs skilled electronics technicians. Every veteran I have hired has done a fantastic job, and I would not replace them for anybody. Their work ethic is incredible. Our company prefers to hire veterans.

    November 11, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Shaun

    perhaps it would be easier if companies utilized a Veteran who has already made the transition to civilian life to vet incoming applicants. That would eliminate the confusion of "military jargon lost in translation".

    The other issue which is a LOT trickier is somehow making the transition from military certification to civilian certification. They used the driving license, heavy equipment license, and medical experience as examples. What "good" is the license if it can't be used when you transfer out.

    November 11, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • cyclobrown

      an unacknowledged ploy to keep you in. police credit transfers.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mike

    Most of the vets went into the armed forces because they were not into school and were unemployable when they enlisted. They got brainwashed in basic training or boot camp into accepting killing as a solution rather than respectful negotiation and kindness. Then most of them were shocked by all the senseless killing especially of innocent civilians including women and children, and return psychologically damaged even if they escaped permanent physical disability. Now they have to compete with all the more educated and better trained people in the job market, who do not have any disabilities and suppressed rage. I feel sympathy for them because they are all victims of a failed international policy and fraudulent recruiting info when they enlisted. They could get jobs as pickers on farms replacing illegal workers, but they probably don't want the jobs. They could work on reconstructing highways and bridges if the republicans in Congress would show some compassion. Yup, they are in big trouble. This is what all of our invasions and occupations end up costing us.

    November 11, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • cyclobrown

      my son gets 1400.00 a month to go to school full time soooo...huh?

      November 11, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      FINALLY! Someone who has a PhD in sociology with a focus in military culture... DON'T WORRY GUYS, WE HAVE AN EXPERT IN THE HOUSE – GONNA CLEAN THIS THREAD UP REAL NICE!

      November 11, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • BrontosaurusRex

      Actually, the truth is on the opposite spectrum. Most people are ineligible for military service. Ask any recruiter.

      About 70% of the population can't serve, mostly because they are not intelligent enough. Chances are you probably fall into taht 70%.

      November 12, 2011 at 4:09 am | Report abuse |
  12. Reid

    I was discharged from the Air Force in 1963. Ever since then, I have been telling people that the military needs to help vets pass civilian license requirements as soon as they graduate from a tech school which taught them a skill; otherwise, they won't be able to pass the test when they leave the military. You forget a lot of tech school knowlege in 4 years (for the ones who leave after 4 years). This is the first article I have seen which commented on the problems of private sector accreditation. I have a son who was a core man and who spent years in school to become first an LPN and then an RN. The military would not even grant him a commision after he managed to get his RN degree and passed the civilian boards. Why didn't the military at least make sure he was a licensed LPN durring his 8 years of active duty in military hospitals? If only the Denfence Department would learn to help their men and women to qualify for civilian jobs before they release them, the employment rate among our vets might be better than the national average.

    November 11, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • cyclobrown

      you make that happen when you sign your contract or walk. the recruiter will chase you down the street usually.was there anything else?

      November 11, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jules

      You are so right. What needs to be done is the military has a parallel track to the civilian world whereby those who join and work in a skill set get the same qualifications as those in civvy street so that they can easily transition when they leave the military. For those specialities which are less easy to translate, they ought to be required to do training in another civilian occupation whilst they are still in the military.

      November 12, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. cyclobrown

    HR doesn"t want to hire vets because bosses don't want/need people who can think for themselves.

    November 11, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoodleHat

      If that were true, they'd love to hire vets. People in the military are all about following orders and group think and doing what those above you say instead of thinking for yourself.

      November 11, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • BrontosaurusRex


      That is not true at all. Yes, the military is about following orders, BUT initiative and autonomy is highly encouraged, That's what makes our military one of the best in the world. Our soldiers are given an extensive amount of leeway to make their own decisions instead of just following the CO says as long as it gets the mission accomplished.

      November 12, 2011 at 4:16 am | Report abuse |
  14. alboze

    The reason their unemployment rate sounds high is because it is the actual numbers. The rate for the country is basically a guess based on the number of people applying for unemployment. The actaul unemployment figure is closer to 17%, so the 12.1% for vets is relatively good in comparison.

    November 11, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Anna

    I spent 6 years in the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman & was in for a rude awakening when I got out and wasn't even qualified to be a nursing assistant in the State of Washington. I ended up being a health aide for minimum wage and enrolled in college. When I tried to use my GI Bill I had to fight with the VA office at the community college in Bremerton because the Chiefa that worked there wouldn't approve my art & english classes...they apparenty had not gone to college & didn't understand what the general requirements were...long story but I got my bachelors in nursing and then my Masters in nursing andnow work as an ARNP...still, it was a long road to get here & you are not enbtirely supported by society or even some of your fellow VA offices at the colleges.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
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