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May 11th, 2012
05:12 PM ET

Opinion: How to employ veterans when they come home

Editor’s Note: Ted Daywalt is president and CEO of VetJobs, a military job board. He served on active duty in the Navy as a line and intelligence officer and retired as a captain after 28 years. He later served in private industry as a plant manager and as an executive in the steel, electric utility, importing, chemical and recruiting industries. “Voters In America: Vets Wanted?” is the first part of In America's documentary series on American voters.  J.R. Martinez narrates the documentary  re-airing May 19th at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on CNN.

By Ted Daywalt, Special to CNN

(CNN) - The employment challenges facing veterans today are vastly different from those facing the post-Vietnam era soldiers.

In the 1970s, when I served, veterans would not mention they had been in the military, much less Vietnam. Discrimination against these veterans was immense, and in 1974, Congress passed the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act to prohibit the discrimination and provide more opportunities.

Today, the perspective on hiring veterans has improved, but National Guard and Army Reserve veterans still face serious employment challenges when they return home.

Now, we are more reliant than ever on the National Guard and reserves to protect our country.

When considering the civilian employment opportunities for veterans, one must separately consider the challenges of those transitioning off active duty, and the members of the National Guard and Reserve.

In the past decade, National Guardsmen and reservists have faced increased call-ups and multiple deployments.

However, unlike their active duty counterparts, when they return from a deployment, their income soon stops, because they are “part-time” military.

Active duty military continue to be paid regularly when they return from a deployment, while those in the National Guard have to find work soon after their return. In some cases, National Guard soldiers are only given a month or two of active duty pay after their return.

“Vets Wanted?” documentary explores veteran unemployment

Because of this increased dependence on these soldiers, a Workforce Management online informal survey showed that 65% of companies will not hire an active member of the National Guard and Reserve as a new employee.

While some companies have a policy that requires that reservists’ jobs be held for them during their deployments, many others feel they cannot run efficiently with their most valued asset, their workers, being taken away for 12 months at a time.

This makes it difficult for the workers to find a job upon returning, and explains why many returning National Guard brigades have had unemployment rates ranging from 30% and more.

It also explains why I began VetJobs, an employment site for transitioning military, National Guard memebers, reservists and veterans.

I wanted to create an online employment site that went beyond just being a job board, but would be an employment site that would give transitioning military and their family members all the information and assistance they would need to find a job.

J.R. Martinez: We must find jobs for U.S. veterans

At VetJobs, we see that generally, those military personnel who transfer off active duty and have no more ties to the military are finding jobs, but those serving in the National Guard are having tremendous problems.

America has sent these young military members overseas to fight for our country, to defend our free enterprise economy, our culture and way of life.

When they return home, it is extremely difficult for them to find employment.

While there is no simple solution to get jobs for unemployed veterans, employers need to understand the unique problems faced by members of the active duty military and the National Guard and Reserve, and hire them.

Several recent programs like the veteran opportunity tax credit, local career fairs, and an expanded GI Bill are great starts in taking care of our veterans.

But there is more we can do.

Three additional solutions to consider are certification and licenses for technical skills obtained in the military, setting aside funds to allow veterans to open franchises and to compensate employers when members of the Guard are called for active duty, and setting up mentoring programs for returning veterans.

The first solution, giving veterans certifications and licenses for military work equal to their civilian counterparts, could allow those who worked as nurses or electricians in service to their country certification to work with unions. While this has been suggested, it has not been made law.

The second, having a pool of funds financed by the Department of Labor, the Small Business Administration or the Veterans Administration, would permit more members of the Guard and Reserve to finance franchises.

Program helps vets open franchises

The third, a mentoring program like Mission Continues, can assist vets in overcoming difficulties in their job search. This is especially effective for wounded warriors and soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The veteran unemployment issue is not a dilemma that has no solution, but rather a problem to be solved.

The issue is whether we, as a country, and our government will have the political will to take care of these citizens fighting for us, because none of these solutions are cheap.

As a country we owe our military a civilian job, because they are the ones who put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ted Daywalt.

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Filed under: Documentaries • Economy • Veterans • What we think
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Name*stanford mendenhall

    Excellent job ted national guard 24 yrs combat infantry iraq &first unit deployed at twin towers.

    May 15, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MAJ Cruz

    Immediately I saw this topic I knew I would have a good opinion and a some analysis about our Reserve and National Guard Soldiers that are coming back from deployment and are having a hard time finding a job or to held up to their current job. Before I came to active duty I was National Guard and I remember how hard was for me to tell my employer that I was activated for a couple f month starting two or three days after the notification. I was afraid of losing my job or to be the first in line if he needed to cut personnel. At that time the current war has not started and I can't imagine how hard is for reserve Soldiers to tell their employers that they need to go for 15 months and that the report date is in five days. First I would be scared of not having my job back when coming back from deployment. I understand that the Soldier Relief Act will guarantee my job back,,, but do you think that I will not be in trouble if I do something wrong and the company kick me out just to bring back my replacement because he did better while I was deploy? For these reasons and others I was happy with the topic for this blog. This blog is letting veterans know that there are still people that worry about those who sacrificed their live for this country and that they truly deserve to be hired when coming back from deployment.

    "The Views expressed in this blog do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S Government"

    May 14, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bill Elmore

    30% of veterans participating in the labor market today are self employed small business owners or co-owners of their own small business. Revise the GI Bill and revise SBA lending criteria to allow recently discharged veterans including Reserve Component members to access unsecured small business start-up financing as long as they receive small business counseling or training from SBA and SBA partners. Many vets will work for themselves and many will hire other fellow veterans and reservists. Also, allow sole source and set aside federal contracts for any small businesses that hire veterans as a specific percentage of their workforce. Bill

    May 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Employer of Army Reservist

    I have employed an Army Reservist since before he signed up, through training and then after his return from active duty. I can tell that he was a noticably better employee after coming back from service... However, I can't imagine any small employer (10-12 employees) being able to deal with the crap the military throws at a patriotic and loyal employer. The biggest problem isn't the deployment, I can deal with that ugliness of hiring somebody for just 1 year of employment.

    The real problem is that he randomly receives orders with anywhere from 2 days to 2 months notice that he will be gone again for a week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, or a month for another unexpected but critical training. Even though he's not on "active duty," he has only been able to work 9-10 months a year in any of the years he has worked for me! This puts an untenable strain on me and his co-workers! If the Army wants this group of people to be employable, they need start treaing employers with respect!

    May 14, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  5. William Demuth

    Perhaps we should just invade Iran?

    I have heard this all before, and it is all too familiar.

    I believe the long term solution is to stop sending our children off to die in meaningless wars?

    Sadly, many of these returning veterans are damaged goods, and no amount of propoganda will change that tragic reality.

    We shall soon see the price of our folly, where our nigthly news shall be filled with the very public freak outs, melt downs and suicides of these kids. Just as after Vietnam, they shall not adjust, and we shall ALL pay the price.

    When will we ever learn?

    May 14, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  6. PantyRaid

    This really has nothing to do with vets. Everyone out there is having problems getting a job. What do you expect when we live in a country where the only choice available for young adults is military?

    Maybe if the US wasn't fighting three wars all the time, we wouldn't have so many out of touch vets.

    Unfortunately since the US can't actually produce anything anymore, the only option for them is to pay soldiers to fight wars. War is always good for the economy.

    May 14, 2012 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
  7. JG

    "In the 1970s, when I served, veterans would not mention they had been in the military, much less Vietnam."

    Today if you happen to be a veteran and unless you are trying to join the security industry or police or something where being armed is part of the job description, it is not a good idea to mention that you have served in the military. Discrimination against veterans in the job place is alive and well and thriving here in America.

    May 14, 2012 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Say it ain't so, Joe!

      Have you participated in such? Be honest, it's all anonymous...

      May 14, 2012 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
      • nofluer

        When I returned from my 2nd trip to SE Asia (aka VN) and was separated from Active Duty, I could not get a job. I went to school, eventually earned a BS degree with a major in accounting, and STILL could not get a job for quite a while. I have now been unemployed for 12 years. After graduation from the University, I sent out 50 resumes that included my military service. I received NOT ONE response of any kind. The next 50 resumes I sent out were exactly the same, but I'd deleted my military service. I received 24% negative responses. ie VN vets don't even rate the courtesy of a reply – much less a job. And yes – I have a handicap. I'm honest.

        May 14, 2012 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
  8. larvadog

    "While some companies have a policy that requires that reservists’ jobs be held for them during their deployments, many others feel they cannot run efficiently with their most valued asset, their workers, being taken away for 12 months at a time."

    The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act specifically requires employers to reemploy returning vets, within certain guidelines. It is not a simple matter of company policy.

    May 14, 2012 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
  9. Marcus

    Instead of closing down the Post Office why not hire the Vets for the job.

    May 14, 2012 at 6:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      Because the Postal Service is a relic. The only people that want to use it are mail carriers and direct mailing companies. The fact that it is hemorrhaging money is your first clue.

      May 14, 2012 at 7:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Emmanuel

      I thank God for those who work at the VA. I have always been trateed with the up-most respect, and I never waited more than 15 minutes for an appointment. I received CPT about 2-3 months ago and have PTSD symptom free for about 2 months. I spent 20 years of my life fighting this and have failed the VA therapies before. I was just interviewed tonite on blog talk radio, a 2 hour show. I shared my long battle with PTSD through out some downloaded information, from the VA website. I told my story about the mistakes I made and how it has run my life the last 20 years. Then I shared information on CPT and the way it changed my view on everything. I'm living proof the VA has given us the help and hope we need. Thank you Dept of Veterans Affairs for all you do for Veterans all over this great country.

      July 4, 2012 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
  10. Return Troops Now

    Get to the core of the problem. We shouldn't have wasted trillions of dollars and destroyed the lives of the 20% horribly wounded, by fighting all these wars in the middle east. When you're in a hole, stop digging. Bring all our fine troops home now, and start spending the money saved, one million per soldier per year, on those brave returning men, on reducing the debt, and on saving social security and medicare. Going forward, other countries like Israel and South Korea, need to take care of their own military problems and learn how to get along with their neighbors.

    May 14, 2012 at 3:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Utter Fantasy

      Your examples are horrible. Israel is almost on the brink of war with Iran and has bombed nuclear sites in Syria and Iraq. The 2010 shelling of Yeonpyeong Island and the sinking of the Cheonan is indicative of the hostile, warlike contempt that North Korea holds for the South. In both countries defense expenditures are subsidized by either outright grants from the US or the use of outside forces (ie UN and USFK).

      If the world works the way you think it works then yes pull our troops home. The reality, however, is totally divergent from your fantasy.

      May 14, 2012 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
    • chico

      i have a better idea. how about cutting military spending and replacing the soldiers with postal workers? think of it – they have uniforms, jeeps, 600,000 of them and plenty of gun-toting wack jobs that frequently "go postal" perfect!

      May 14, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  11. Larry

    Ive worked with and have friends who have worked with vets before. Unfortunately on most ocassions we ran into a similar problem and that was their way of handling issues when employees came to them was to say suck it up deal with it and if the employee persisted they started yelling and issuing orders and showing a complete lack of respect and concern for the needs and concerns of the employees they were in charge of. Then on the other sid i know service members who when theyre ready to enter the work force have difficulty finding a job because their skills, outside of computer work, dont translate. Or they get told the same thing as me well you dont have experience doing this even though you went to school for it.

    May 14, 2012 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
    • John in NY

      Larry, maybe they are telling people to suck it up because the US work force has become so lazy and whiny?

      May 14, 2012 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
    • nofluer

      Larry – thanks for the summary of some of the things I've been told by "employers". Before I went back to school for the BS in acctg, I was a State certified welder in 5 states (my welding skills were good enough to be assigned to work on the construction of a nuclear power plant), and had worked as an electrician and a plumber. Now tell me exactly how we've managed to eliminate the use of steel and plumbing and electricity in this Brave New world you say we're in? See... most of us have lots of skills and abilities and experience – but when you're dealing with a Vet, any old excuse will do because you all KNOW that we're stupid and you can get away with it.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  12. Pete/Ark

    As a VietNam combat Marine I deeply appreciate the efforts and goals outlined here...as the father of a member of the Guard I know first hand the unique problems they face...and there is one more step that must be taken...I hope the Captain reads the comments posted here : Education of employers is critical...most HR staff (both public and private) have no idea of how to translate military knowledge,skill,ability, and experience into "civilian" hence the vet can't get a foot inthe door; an agressive program is needed to convert employers from merely voicing "thanks for serving" into an actual demonstration by learning how the areas are similar. It won't be easy to break the parochial boundries, but it must be done. Teaching the vets is far easier than teaching understanding to others ; commonality of reference is crucial.

    May 13, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Worldwalker

      Instead of trying to reach all employers and teach them what to look for, wouldn't it be more practical to address the vets (already conveniently at hand) and teach them how to present their experience and abilities to prospective employers?

      May 14, 2012 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
      • TAP

        That is already done with military transition programs offered on most bases.

        May 14, 2012 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
      • JG

        The vets already know how to present themselves and their skills. I should know, I am one myself. We're given classes and training on building a resume, conducting job interviews, the whole thing. The problem is absolutely on the employer side, not the applicant side.

        And employers do today discriminate against veterans. Once again I should know because it has happened to me. I got actually laid off from a job with no reason given even after asking about it, and then replaced with a non-vet. This occurred only after my veteran status was made clear to a person in charge of the organization I was working for.

        May 14, 2012 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
      • nofluer

        I was the Office Manager of a small corp for over a year – the owner said I was the best accountant he'd ever had. Three months later I let it slip that I was a VN vet – and three months later I was gone.

        May 14, 2012 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
    • John in NY

      Actually this is something each vet needs to do for themselves since there is not a cookie cutter "X=Y" type translation that can be given to employers.

      Truthfully there should be a required class of effective resume writing and interview taking mandated for all troops who are being discharged and during that they could learn how their skillsets apply to civilian life.

      When I g0t out of the Army in the mid 80's I had no clue how my experience applied to civilian life, and it took over a dozen years before I was in a position where my experience allowed me to shine, and show what I was truely capable of and in the 10 years since then I've gone from a machine operator in a very small company to a manager in a company that had over $8 billion in sales last year.

      May 14, 2012 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
  13. Judy75201

    I think hiring vets in as many spots as possible in our VA hospitals would help.

    May 13, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Techsupport

    Or maybe let's stop sending them overseas?

    There's a saying that I hear a lot, "if you cant feed em, don't breed em" when talking about people who have kids even though they already cant afford the ones they have. Shouldn't the government be able to exercise that same basic logic, that if they can't support their military, maybe they shouldnt be going to war?

    May 13, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      We get that you don't like the war and want to use every opportunity to shout it from the rooftops, but these guys have already been and returned and voicing opposition does not address the problem that exists.

      May 14, 2012 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
      • Ladshik

        My suggestion on How to help einlmiate Veteran Homelessness: PAY VETERANS THEIR BENEFITS PROMPTLY instead of putting them on a hampster wheel of denials. Veterans for Common Sense says it takes an average of 4.4 years for a Veteran to appeal his claim at the BVA. Many Vets can not wait 4 years for their benefits and become homeless while on the long waiting list. The VARO's keep making the same mistakes, over and over again, denying Veterans and never learning anything from the court cases that reverse the denials.The Veterans Benefit Manual published by Lexis Nexus demonstrates that there are 22 common errors made by the RO's requiring Veterans to appeal or forfeit their benefits. These common mistakes, repeated by the VARO's over and over again, result in Veteran homelessness en masse.

        July 2, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jonquil

    Many vets engage in environmental engineering projects abroad and as part of the nature of their service. This group are well suited to "green" infrastructure and land management/tree planting/reclaimation work because intermittent projects work well with those who must commit to a military weekend a month or might be deployed for longer than that.

    Crossover skills are also built in these fields, where military members can return home and work as Public/Environmental Health inspectors; by earning certification through testing, within their home states, they can work as independent contractors, around military obligations. They can also carry these same skills over into sustainable facilities management.

    May 11, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  16. hamsta

    stop paying ridiculous lifelong salaries to these politicians who are selling america from under your feet and start paying our soldiers that money for defending america so you dont have to speak iranian and worship a terrorist god.

    May 11, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Worldwalker

      Politicians are not paid lifelong salaries. Many get pensions when they retire, yes, as do most government workers, but that's not the same thing.

      When our military is referred to as a "volunteer" military, it means that its members join by choice, rather than being drafted - not that they're not being paid.

      There is no language called "Iranian".

      We are not at war with Iran. Our soldiers are not defending us from Iran. They are not fighting there. The source of the majority of the current veterans is Iraq, notable for having fought a war with Iran for the better part of a decade.

      It's extremely doubtful that Iran has any interest at all in conquering the US and imposing their language and religion. Far too impractical, not to mention the minor problem of having a lot of neighbors who hate them and would just love to see them ship off their armed forces to some other continent.

      Other than that .... well, you did spell your words right.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
      • John in NY

        Worldwalker,

        You overlook the simple truth that these politicians get a pension even if they only serve a single term in Congress. With that being the case even if it's only 1/3 of what they made while in office it's still an insult to those who work 40, 50 or 60 years while being taxed to pay for the pensions of everyone ever elected to Congress.

        May 14, 2012 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
      • sweet Jeebus

        that was very entertaining Worldwalker, its nice to find people that stand up for reason. Cheers.

        May 14, 2012 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
      • Leo Vale

        @John in NY. Members of Congress must serve 5 years before qualifying for a pension. So one term for a senator is enough, but a representative must serve 2-1/2 terms. Now, if a representative or senator serves the minimum 5 years for vesting, the pension they would earn is just under $15,000/year...which is about 8.5% of their annual salary while a MoC. Please do a little research before you complain about Congresssional pensions.

        May 14, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |