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Military Connection Works to Boost Lagging Veteran Employment Numbers

Of the many challenges faced by American soldiers and sailors returning to civilian life, simply finding work can be one of the toughest. In some previous eras, veteran employment opportunities abounded as part of a booming post-war U.S. economy, but for today's returning veteran jobs are much scarcer.

Overall joblessness in the U.S. hovers around 9 percent, and veteran employment numbers are worse. The unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans is stuck in the 12 to 13 percent range, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. About 240,000 veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan haven't been able to find work, but that's just a fraction of the problem. So many established veteran careers were derailed by the recession that a total of 850,000 American vets are now unemployed.

With the diminishing U.S. combat role in Iraq and Afghanistan, even more former troops will be entering the civilian job market over the next few years. The White House says it expects 1 million current service members to separate from the armed forces by 2016. Even if the economy gradually improves over the next few years, competition for job opportunities will continue to be tough as the American workforce absorbs these returning warriors.

The federal government has made renewed efforts in the latter half of 2011 to encourage veteran recruitment in the private sector. In August the President announced a goal of creating 100,000 veteran jobs in private industry by 2013. The administration also championed the recently passed Veterans Opportunity Work (VOW) Act, which makes a tax credit up to $5,600 available to businesses each time they hire an unemployed veteran who has been out of work for at least six months. The legislation will also double an existing tax credit for hiring longer-term unemployed vets with service-connected disabilities, to a new maximum of $9,600.

A key to opening up more military vet jobs in the private sector may be efforts to increase civilian understanding of military roles. Often military occupations and skills don't appear to private employers to be readily transferable to civilian positions. Now the Department of Labor is offering online tools to help vets find civilian jobs that their military training and experience qualify them for. And at the VA website, veterans can now download their official military records as proof of their service, including their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) codes. Computer applications are being implemented that will translate MOS codes into equivalent civilian job descriptions automatically when prospective employers glean vets' information from resume posting websites.

Veterans are better represented in government jobs, especially at the federal level where vets earn preference points that can give them an edge in hiring decisions. Vets are also slightly more likely than non-vets to hold state jobs, and local government offers vets many career opportunities, particularly in law enforcement where military training and service are strongly applicable to police and security jobs.

Military Connection helps our veterans find jobs and employment opportunities by matching private and government employers' needs with qualified veteran candidates. Browse through our online job board, virtual job fair and job search aids, and be sure to check out the many other education, training and information resources that Military Connection offers.