Lots of companies, big and small, have hiring initiatives in place focused on hiring military veterans. Amazon, Cintas, DaVita, Dollar General, General Electric, Progressive, Sears, and Sprint are just a few household names that are ranked as “Best Veteran Employers” on military.com. Other notable companies with strong veteran programs are Deloitte, Highmark and Hewlett-Packard; they all have major HR initiatives to honor and hire our military veterans.
2014 was labeled “The Year of the Veteran” and The U.S. Chamber of Commerce routinely holds popular “Hiring Our Heroes” job fair events all across the country! So why does the unemployment rate of veterans who served post 9/11 hover around 2-3% higher than the national average? How can this be?
Veterans bring a wealth of character to the human capital table! Leadership, teamwork, efficiency, respect and integrity are just the beginning of what they have to offer. They come with built in soft skills that every employer should die for! When surveyed, employers cited things such as “work ethic”, “dependability, “team-orientated”, and “works well under pressure” in their top 10 desired skills in their hires. Now, I have never personally served in the military, but I’m pretty sure you can’t survive on day in the military, let alone a tour of duty in a foreign country, without these skills embedded in you!
So this brings us back to the question – WHY aren’t these younger veterans finding jobs? The answer appears to be fear. And I’m not talking about fear on the side of the soldier – I’m talking about fears of the employers. What are they afraid of? In addition to a general concerns over skills mismatch (“nothing they did in the military relates to the jobs we have”), many admit to being concerned about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Some hiring managers are afraid that their newly hired vet might one day just “snap.” Many Vietnam War era vets suffered from this, but unfortunately, it went unrecognized for many years. It is such a real mental health affliction that the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs even houses the “National Center for PTSD.” While PTSD is real, and affects people of all races, color and socioeconomic background, it is now very, very treatable. Using this as a gauge to determine someone’s eligibility for hire and viability as an employee is just as discriminatory as perceiving that someone “might” be diabetic. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) clearly states, “Employers cannot fire or choose not to hire a qualified person now because they fear the worker will become too ill to work in the future. The hiring decision must be based on how well the individual can perform at the present time.” Let’s give our honorable veterans that same protection under the law to which everyone else is entitled.