Thursday, February 23, 2012

Unemployment among recently discharged veterans

I have been getting a number of calls from journalists asking me about the "civil-military gap." One, after I explained what it was and what I thought it meant, asked, "So, what? Why should we care?" 

An excellent question. And, the attached news article is one reason why. The civilian world, while I believe that they actually do appreciate what our military personnel are doing day to day, don't really understand it and likely never will. So, to parrot the journalist, "So, what?"

Well, in the case cited in the article, despite years of experience in the field, civilian executive and human relations offices cannot translate military skills into civilian skills. They seem to make several assumptions, all of which are false.

Assumption 1: The only thing they learn in the military is to mindlessly follow orders.
Assumption 2: The only thing they learn in the military is how to shoot people.
Assumption 3: Only non-creative people join the military.
Assumption 4: If he had been smart, he never would have joined the military in the first place...after all, I didn't.
Assumption 5: All military veterans have psycho-social problems or will turn up with PTSD, and I am afraid to deal with it.

All of the above are false, and I will take time over the next days to respond to each. However, despite the apparently honest good feelings most Americans have toward our service personnel, that good feeling just does not extend to trusting them with a job. 

Pretty sad, isn't it? 

Those who stay home and don't join the military may assume that only dumb people or those with no options enlist. It may be just as accurate to say that unimaginative people who have no sense of adventure or no sense of service to the public, or who are simply cowards, seek ways to not join the military. That is likely just as false an assumption as those listed above.

I discovered the same sort of discrimination when I retired. Now, I had a double whammy. I was over 50 and still had, in the words of one friend, "The stink of the military on me." It took several years and going back to school to clean that stink off me. Most people I talked to had no understanding of how to translate military experience into civilian experience. That was not true after World War II, when the number of citizens had direct contact or actual experience with the military. Today, less than 1 percent of our population is in uniform 

Why is the unemployment rate for recent veterans higher than for the general population? It is because companies are making conscience decisions not to hire them. 

Prove me wrong.

Appendix: Comparing from a year ago to today (March 2010 - March 2011)

Unemployment rate, March 2010
                                All vets      Iraq-Afghan vets   Non-Vets
All                               9.8                 14.7               10.0
Male                            9.9                 14.8               11.9
Female                        9.1                 14.2                8.1
Unemployment rate, March 2011
                                All vets      Iraq-Afghan vets   Non-vets
All                               9.0                 10.9                9.0
Male                            8.9                 11.6               10.2
Female                        9.9                  7.5                 7.8

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