Transitioning disabled vets to the civilian workforce: The Challenges and Solutions
Part 1 of 3: With the advent of the economic crisis in this country, statistics show that veterans have suffered high unemployment rates equal to or greater than that of the civilian population. There are more veterans seeking work today, thanks to service members returning from Iraq. Veterans face unique challenges when reentering the workforce, including misinformation about the nature and quality of military training and their needs as wartime military personnel.
How tough is the problem?
As the Bureau of Labor pointed out last year, the unemployment rate for disabled veterans for all service periods was 8.2%, but the rate for veterans serving since 2001 – “Gulf War – II era vets” – was 10.2%. There were also some shocking statistics cited in BusinessWeek that the unemployment rates for the very youngest of veterans, aged 18 to 24, were as high as 30.4% in October, 2011.
On February 3, 2012, the Bureau of Labor released updated statistics covering January, 2012. The good news is that the unemployment percentage of all veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is dropping, from 15.2% to 9.1%, comparing January, 2012 to January of 2011. Distressingly, however, the unemployment rate for women vets has grown rapidly, from 13.5% to 17.3% in one year. This is almost two and a half times the unemployment rate for men, which was 7.7%.
The Department of Veterans Affairs got to the crux of the issue in its opening statement for the 2011 Independent Budget: “People with disabilities, including disabled veterans, often encounter barriers to entry or reentry into the workforce or lack accommodations on the job; many have difficulty obtaining appropriate training, education, and job skills.”
Hope and solutions:
In the upcoming installments of this article, GI Money will be providing concrete ideas for disabled vets to win the job hunt. Hopefully, we will be a source of motivation and encouragement for that transition to civilian work.
We’re not the only ones who appreciate the challenges facing disabled vets. Congenital amputee Kyle Maynard has been giving his time through the Wounded Warrior project. With showings of the ESPN documentary of his life, motivational speeches, and even athletics, Maynard teaches vets to live his personal motto: “No Excuses.” He has visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center several times, where he was born into a military family. As he tells GI Money, “Those guys are my heroes!” Using his status as a champion wrestler as a powerful example, he proves that being disabled “doesn’t mean you can’t compete.”
When asked whether there is any public investment that he’d like society to make for people with physical challenges, he strongly responds, “Yeah! Similar to any other civil rights movement. You don’t want ‘different’, you want equality.” We couldn’t agree more.