The Labor Department is expected to release its annual report on the job situation for veterans soon. The jobless rate for those who served after 9/11 has tended to be higher than the overall unemployment rate.
Though typically highly skilled, disciplined and hard-working, veterans of recent conflicts often have more difficulty than civilians in finding work. Companies love to hang yellow ribbons and run ads about supporting America’s veterans. But veterans say they aren’t always as quick to hire them because civilian managers don’t understand how to evaluate military experience.
“The hardest part for me when I first got out of the military was figuring out what to write on a resume,” says Marine veteran Michael Wersan, who served in Iraq as an infantry assaultman. “Nobody cares that I did 700 patrols in seven months. That doesn’t compute for a civilian.”
But he translated his skills into a civilian resume and picked up new ones studying at the City University of New York. He’s now a construction supervisor.
Former Marine Tireak Tulloch did two tours in Iraq and had advanced training in network engineering. His skills are in demand, but at first, he says he couldn’t get past initial phone interviews. A reservist when he was job searching, he felt managers wouldn’t hire him because they feared he’d be sent back to Iraq. But he kept at it and his civilian career in technology has since taken off.
Those who speak for veterans say there's a great deal of mistunderstanding amongst employers.
“I think there are a lot of misconceptions that every veteran is a ticking time bomb,” says Derek Bennett, an Army veteran, who is chief of staff of the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a reality after combat. But veterans groups say employers need to understand that PTSD is managable. Overall, they want employers to look beyond stereotypes and do more to reach out to veteran communities, where they may find men and women with the skills they’re looking for.