As a country we owe our veterans a debt that cannot be paid. While going about our business, safe and secure, soldiers and sailors were serving around the world, promoting American values, safeguarding American interests and advancing American standing. These veterans have willingly put themselves on the front line of protecting our country. As they return to civilian life, careers for veterans become a real concern for them.
After their service, the last thing any of these veterans deserve is discrimination against them in their career or bias against them while trying to find a job. Unfortunately, the bias against veterans exists and, in some ways, permeates all aspects of employment. Finding a career, for veterans, can be more difficult when faced with the institutional bias against the military.
Careers for veterans in the private sector
It is difficult to find anyone willing to talk about a bias against veterans in the private sector. Patriotism, love of country and a concerted push by the federal government to promote careers for veterans have driven the bias underground, but have certainly not ended it. Much of the bias is due to not understanding what veterans can bring to the table.
One of the major problems is not being able to translate known skills into a career for veterans. Most veterans are not used to translating military skills into civilian terms. All branches of the military use jargon and acronyms that, to a civilian hiring manager, are nothing more than gobbledygook. Translating a veteran’s skills into easily understandable English is the first step in overcoming the built in bias.
Another problem is the misconception about the effects that PTSD can have. Employers fear that all returning veterans have PTSD and that these veterans have anger management issues or are violent. Although this fallacy has been debunked, employers still struggle with offering careers for veterans that could cause problems in the future.
Careers for veterans in the public sector
The federal government would seem to be the perfect fit for returning veterans to find careers, but this is not always the case. Veteran’s Preference rules were designed to make it easier for veterans and their families to find careers with the federal government, but they don’t always work out the way they were intended.
The push for finding careers for veterans that originated with the federal government has caused resentment among civil servants that are competing for the same jobs. In some cases, the assumption is that if a veteran is applying for a position, they will get it, but some government agencies that should be filled with veterans are not veteran employment friendly.
Facing the bias
There are times that no matter what a veteran does, an employer is unwilling to hire them or treats their employment differently than civilians who fill similar positions. This is discrimination and is against the law. There are resources for veterans who believe they have been discriminated against and there should be no hesitation in using them against employers who have broken the law.
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Fistful of talent, HR’s Dirty Little Secret – We don’t like to hire Vets, Tim Sackett, November 2012 [https://fistfuloftalent.com/2012/11/hrs-dirty-little-secret-we-dont-like-to-hire-vets.html]
Vantage Point, 5 Reasons Why Employers Are Not Hiring Vets, Lisa Nagorny and Dan Pick, June 2012 [https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/7232/5-reasons-why-employers-are-not-hiring-vets/]
USA Today, Recent war vets face hiring obstacle: PTSD bias, Gregg Zoroya, April 2013 [https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/04/06/recent-war-vets-face-hiring-obstacle-ptsd-bias/2057857/]
OPM.gov, Veterans Employment Initiative [https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/veterans-employment-initiative/vet-guide/]
The Washington Post, Obama push to hire veterans into federal jobs spurs resentment, Lisa Rein, September 2014 https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-push-to-hire-veterans-into-federal-jobs-spurs-resentment/2014/09/14/c576e592-2edc-11e4-bb9b-997ae96fad33_story.html
The Daily Caller, Actual Veterans Are A Scarce Sight In Top Veterans Affairs Hospital Jobs, Luke Rosiak, January 2016 [https://dailycaller.com/2016/01/05/va-employs-few-veterans-in-top-medical-management-jobs/]
AOL, 7 Signs of Discrimination Against Veterans at Work, Donna Ballman, September 2012 [https://www.aol.com/2012/09/27/7-signs-of-discrimination-against-veterans-at-work/
U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans [https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/discrimination/vetsdisc]