Labor Day and Veteran Employment

Anyone who works with veterans will tell you that second to medical and mental healthcare, employment is a critical factor for veterans making a successful transition to civilian life. Veterans, especially the young ones, leave a very structured workplace where their job is 24/7 to a much less-structured civilian world of choices.

Often there is no exact fit for a vet’s MOS, the military occupation code that describes a job. With less than one-half of one-percent of the population serving in our military, human resource staffsoften don’t know how to recognize the skills a vet has acquired.  Nor do they appreciate the strengths of having worked  in such a structured “company,” never mind the level of commitment. Nobody gets the meaning of having a “mission” better than a well-trained military service member.

In a perfect world, no—make that a better world—there would be job counselors to help veterans prepare for the transition well before they leave military service. Military service members receive a minimum of nine months of training and many receive specialized schooling for their jobs. That makes sense, right?  They’re going into a completely different work environment. By contrast, when they leave the military, there is little to no preparation or training to help them make the U-turn back to a civilian  work environment.  A 21-day transition period is simply not effective.

In our culture, work defines us and validates us. It can also be a kind of therapy, providing structure and routine. In that sense, work can build a bridge between worlds. In a capitalistic society like ours, where the income of middle class families is no higher than it was in 1974, it’s even more important to make a decent living. Since 2016, the unemployment rates of veterans has declined somewhat.  That’s good news for sure. But it doesn’t address the whole picture.

What we often hear on our Lifeline for Vets information hotline is that many vets transition out fairly well….until they hit a rough patch, sometimes years later. Meaningful work stabilizes, so that other issues don’t look overwhelming.  Both a lack of employment and not having meaningful work are often the triggers that send vets into a spiral toward homelessness.

So, on this Labor Day, when we honor what American workers have accomplished and get ready to get back to work after summer, let’s be sure to include the men and women in our military services. Let’s make it easier for companies to hire vets by raising this issue over and over so they know it’s important to us.  Last, if you know a vet who needs help, here’s our Lifeline for Vets hotline: 888.777.4443.

You can be a part of our mission to help Veterans by making a tax-deductible donation!

About the Author

Shad Meshad

As a U.S. Army Medical Service Officer in Vietnam in 1970, Shad Meshad began pioneering treatment techniques for what would later become known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He is the founder of the National Veterans Foundation and founder and co-author of the VA’s Vet Center Program.


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