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How Will We Do Right By Our Veterans?

By Horace Blake

American veterans are unique in that they are an honored demographic in the United States. These men and women have given their time and in some case their lives to serve our country. According to the United States Department of Labor’s “Current Population Survey,” there are an estimated 12.5 million veterans working or looking for work. The largest percentage is within the median age of 55 to 64 years old and includes those who served in World II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

blake 3Further results of this study revealed that among men aged 25 and over, 30 percent are veterans with at least a college degree that work in the public sector. Recent trends have shown a change in the demographic make-up of veterans to include more women as well as younger people from diverse ethnicities. Women are 9.5 percent of all veterans while Hispanics are over 12 percent, making them the most dominant ethnicity. What does this mean for veterans in the workforce? The answer is for human resources to utilize new policies in workforce selection, development and opportunities to meet the needs of the growing veteran population.

Examining The State of Veteran’s Employment

An important way to analyze the state of veteran employment is to verify when these veterans last participated in active duty. Survey results show that for the demographic between the ages of 25 to 34, 1 in 10 veterans served on active duty sometime since September 2001. From the beginning of 2007, recession veterans fared better than civilians as their unemployment rates topped out at 8.7 percent in comparison to the 9.4 percent for nonveterans in 2010. Looking at these numbers the rate is even lower for the West South Central areas of the United States.

blake 2There is a concerted effort by the government to improve resources and opportunities for veterans and their families through education, outreach, training and hiring. Each state, along with a variety of non-government and non-profit organizations, is embarking on a variety of tailored programs to meet the needs of these veterans. As the U.S. military services transition a sizeable number of active duty service members to civilian life there continues to be an unprecedented need for assistance and employment services to reintegrate them into the civilian workforce. The Department of Labor’s Veteran’s Employment and Training Services (VETS) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) are the lead government agencies at the forefront of workforce development initiatives for veterans. Other organizations designed to meet the special demands of veterans include:

Additionally, there are interagency initiatives and collaborations among the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Office of Personnel Management as they work together and lead the effort to ensure the needs of veterans are met. For example,  the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Disability Policy (within the Department of Labor) have successfully collaborated on hiring events for persons with disabilities eligible for Schedule A and are 30 percent disabled veterans. Other events such as National Disability Awareness Month, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s “Business Steps Up: Hiring Our Heroes,” the Veterans Employment Program and the Interagency Council on Veterans Employment provide ongoing support for the employment of veterans.

Other Primary Areas of Needs Among Veterans

Veterans feel their military service is respected, however finding a job is the greatest challenge in transitioning to civilian life. In terms of human resource management, before employment issues can be addressed other issues may require more immediate attention. These issues include medical care, disability, cultural barriers, housing, counseling, transportation, training and readjustment to civilian life. If these issues are not primary then the veteran may not be suitable or able to arrive at a job site and perform to the best of their ability. This is where social services must step up to help veterans establish themselves by:

  • having an address and a phone number to put on job applications.
  • providing the means of transportation to get to and from their place of employment.
  • assisting them with any government service benefits that they are entitled to.

This might seem like a tall order. However, the key remains in having access to those available services and benefit opportunities. After employment, the human resources department could take further action or steps by investigating these services, creating a clearinghouse for veterans and informing them on how to access these services.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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