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troop drawdown in Iraq shifts into high gear - virtually all of the 39,000 troops still in Iraq in October will be withdrawn by December 31.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

    Some wont hire us out of fear.They think vets will take over and push them out.It happened to me.

    November 11, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • gfgfg

      wrong, but the fact that you think you cause people fear shows your mental state. thats why you cant get a job

      November 11, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • soul2squeez


      go crawl back under your rock, troll.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Sorry, but I find this incredibly hard to believe. Are you claiming you were actually told this by a person who didn't hire you? Or is this simply how you've rationalized not getting hired for a job that *you* thought you were perfect for?

      I mean, seriously. It doesn't even make any sense. After all, not only do veterans come in all shapes and sizes with a wide variety of skills, but this country has had veterans since 1776. You'd think we'd have noticed this "fear of vets" a long, long time ago.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred. S.

      Nah, I just hate Amerikan soldiers.

      November 12, 2011 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. Eric2012

    Question I have... say I'm looking to hire another employee for my business (which I may within the next year), will I get in trouble looking to hire a veteran because I know I'll be getting up to a $5,600 tax credit? All of a sudden it creates an unfair advantage for veterans, because I'm more likely to hire them just to save money, which in business is the name of the game. And don't get me wrong... I'm a veteran, and have no problem hiring a veteran, I can just see people who aren't veterans losing out on jobs because of the $5,600 tax break. Another thing... what happens if the veteran has been out of work 3 or 4 months... do I basically tell them to wait it out another couple months so I can get this $5,600 tax break? I have to say getting a tax break that large would almost have me scouting out a veteran that fix the bill... unemployed six months plus, because it's basically like getting a free employee for a couple months.

    November 11, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • OneOfTheSheep

      So, as I understand what you're saying, you're a veteran that objects to "veteran's preference"?

      I think this country owes guys and gals who were in harm's way (or subject to it) a little more than the comparable non-vet applicant. If you're hiring, it's your call; but for the life of me I can't see the point of your post.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • soul2squeez

      Why dont you just hire the one you think will be the better option. If it happens to be the Vet good for you, now you get a credit. I've been in the military for 10 years and I've got to say just cause someone is a vet doesnt mean they will be a great employee. There are some people that I wouldnt trust watering grass, but then there are those that are very intelligent or hard working or both. Just use your judgement.

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

      Seems there wouldn't be a law against it, at least in s state job. 45 years ago in CA veterans were given a preference in a point system. Whatever their score was, veteran points were added. Still, if their total score was lower than a non veteran, they waited in line for an interview. Private business, I don't know. Folks with developmental disabilities get jobs in the private sector and the employer is given some money (incentive) for the hiring. that gives the employee a feeling of self worth. I know it's not the same, and yet it seems somehow to apply to the vets. (for those of you who may think I'm comparing vets to developmentally disabled, I"M NOT. I'm saying that there is a system already in place for this incentive kind of hiring.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emily Keyes

      My thought exactly

      November 11, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. USVet2011

    You guys are right. All Veterans are useless killing machines. Kudos. Ill be sure to sit around and browse the internet like you next time the terrorist fly a plane into a building and kill someone you love.

    November 11, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • cory (Humanzrstupd)

      Hopefully next time (hopefully there won't be a "next time") such people will be IN the plane itself.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kay


      November 11, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      here, I found your meds

      November 11, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred. S.

      Which will be even more likely to happen now after ten years of your vicious, homicidal interfering over there.
      Hope the next one lands at whatever Army Base you're at now. Depraved, rotten, degenerate.

      November 12, 2011 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
  4. BisSir

    Some may have chose to join the armed forces, perhaps because they had few other choices.

    November 11, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • valhallahollayo

      Actually, bassir, some of us just liked the cool, gigantic, powerful toys. Yes, unbelievable! *gasp* Some of us join because college seems boring to a recent highschool grad and rather than spend 4-5 years racking up$100k in student loans just to get a degree in a field we hate, believing we'd graduate and walk into a $45k a year job that, realistically,would get us $10.50/hr starting after graduation; we go into the military as naive kids who like big toys, earn our degrees in a field we enjoy which are paid from the same federal and state taxes that we also pay. Few of us "occupy" city parks, crying about how unfair reality is. Instead we allow a strong work ethic born from years of 12-18 hour days with no over time, no.family time, and no safe option to.quit forces us to seek out whatever job we can get to pay our bills or support our future. Spare us your speculation and refrain from using the internet.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marine5484

      That's total BS most of the people serving or who have served since 2001 are/who grew up in a middle class home (like me) and chose to serve.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Jeez Louise! The guy simply said " SOME people MAY have joined the military because PERHAPS they might had few other choices." and you two decide to jump on his head...why?? What on earth is wrong with you two? What he said was accurate. That's exactly why SOME people MAY have enlisted.

      You two may have served in the military, but that doesn't give you the right to bite someone's head off for making a perfectly innocent AND ACCURATE post. Heck...if your behavior is typical, no wonder veterans have a hard time getting jobs.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Teri

    Military already have an advantage for government jobs. Now, they have an advantage in civilian jobs.

    November 11, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Eric2012

    I just read some of the jobs bill... and here are a few more details... up to $5,600 for veterans unemployed 6 months or more... or up to $4,000 for anybody unemployed 6 months or more. And lastly, up to $9,600 if you hire a long-term unemployed disabled veteran (I don't know if that's 6 months or more... didn't say).

    November 11, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. roy

    How soon would vets get laid off after their employer gets the free $5600 to hire them sounds like another tax give away to business people from our friends from Washington.

    November 11, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Well, considering that it's a tax credit, they obviously have to go through the end of the tax year 🙂

      November 11, 2011 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. alice58

    i've also seen former military people get into positions at high levels because they were in the military - it works both ways - the problem lies with the fact that the military doesn't train vets enough to make their skills work in the private sector - a failing on the military's part - of course, that requires billions of dollars to education and job skills training that many in this country don't want to pay for, but these very same people keep demanding we "support our troops" which equates to "send them to war and when they return forget about them" - and sadly many vets buy into that very same mind-think when it comes to voting. sad but true

    November 11, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • OneOfTheSheep

      Wrong! The "private sector" has inflated "qualifications" for everything above janitor because they can get a "college graduate" for the same price per hour as the more specialized veteran with experience. The difference between a can of Alpo and a recent college graduate is that the can of Alpo has "content".

      There are very few basic "jobs" that require skills that cannot be mastered in a few weeks of "on the job" training, but you'd never know that reading the classified ads.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Sorry, sheep, but alice is right. And your assumption that companies want college grads for basic jobs often couldn't be more wrong. (Think "overqualified".) Remember that there's a big difference between required and preferred qualifications. So don't assume that *all* the things listed in an ad are automatically required. (And don't assume that everything you see as a requirement can be mastered in a few weeks. You'd be surprised.)

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

      K- Ive seen want ads recently looking for an AS for janitors and general laborers and a BS for a recepconist.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Jules

      Actually, Alice, having worked in the defense industry and in private industry, I would say it is private industry who doesn't want to train people these days – the govt. and the military give lots of very good training. The training I received in private industry was meagre to say the least. Whilst I'm sure there are some cases of military people being given jobs they might not really be qualified for, I can honestly say I have worked with some real idiots in the private sector who are only in their positions because of a piece of paper/qualification which when it comes down to it, doesn't actually help them perform the job to a high standard. Unfortunately, qualification have become so hyped up, that now you need a Masters degree for a job that shouldn't even require a Bachelor's degree.

      November 12, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. diag

    Breaking: Layoff notices are being handed out across CNN/U.S. today. Photographers, editors and other staffers in Atlanta, New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles and Miami are being let go. In all, at least 50 positions are being eliminated. As many as 12 staffers in the Washington, DC bureau alone, four of whom are longtime photojournalists.

    CNN Senior VP Jack Womack writes in a note to staff that the cuts come after a 3-year analysis of the company’s work processes.

    November 11, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rod C. Venger

    Hellloooooo! The National Guard and reservists' jobs are guaranteed to still be there when they get home, that's the law. It doesn't matter how long they were gone.

    November 11, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hiring Manager

      Unfortunately that's not completely accurate. As a hiring manager I can tell you that we (at least my company) tries very hard to place our returning veterans, but if the company has downsized during your absence - lost a major customer or contract - they are not required to offer you your old job. They are required to offer you a job, but that job could be anywhere and at a "comparable" level, so if you want to live and work in the town you left to serve from (say Dallas) but there are no jobs anymore and you're offered a position in Tucson, the company has met its legal obligation. Having a job when you return from service is not as cut and dry as many believe.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hiring Manager

      Sorry it's late hear. We "try" vice "tries"

      November 11, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Marine5484

    I don't know all of the problems (not in HR for a company) but, one thing is that the media constantly talks about PTSD so many people think that we have all lost it ( I had a HR rep ask me if I saw combat and if I had PTSD) and others are just ignorant to the skill set that we have ( another HR person asked if I had ever held a real job).

    November 11, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dj Abdi

    That is why i didnt wanna join the army.

    November 11, 2011 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Emily Keyes

    I won't hire a vet because I don't need "sharp-shooter, sniper or "killing machine" as a current job skill. I need a data mining analyst as a current job skill! "Qualified on a M-16" is just something I don't need for my business. Not to mention that you don't know when PTSD is going to "kick in" and a "disturbed vet" is going to start shooting everyone in the hallway.

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

      Thats ok, I'm sure you work for a multi level marketing scheme.

      November 12, 2011 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Jules

      Emily, you need to shut up. You are a total disgrace spouting that degrading stuff about the military. Stop with your verbal diarrhea. I hope you lose your job.

      November 12, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. D

    Ya know...I'm so sick of the people who don't get an education, join the military, expect tax payers to pay their paycheck and their education in the military, and then expect tax payers to subsidize employers to hire them. The bottom line is 90%+ of military personnel will never be shot out, never carry a rifle on the battlefield, etc.

    Sorry if I'm a little down on these 'American Heroes' but I quite frankly every person I know who has joined the military did it for the money. You don't get my respect when you do something for MY money, sorry.

    November 11, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emily Keyes

      Very Well Said!

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

      thank you

      November 11, 2011 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mikelike

      Good for you dirtbag, why don't you put this up on a public place using your real name so I make sure to never hire you or give you any of my money.
      I'm sure a lot of people really feel this way but don't dare say it out loud. Plus I don't really believe your in any kind of position to hire anybody for anything. Internets a nice dream world though.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. theLord

    Why? Because the Merican people couldn't care less, with hands on heart they vomit about patriotism and freedom but its just words, oops, got to go, time to watch reality tv...

    November 11, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
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