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After Service, What Now?

Military veterans face a massive adjustment when returning to civilian life. It’s not only a matter of transitioning from an ordered and regimented existence to a civilian’s more autonomous life: About a quarter of all Gulf War II-era veterans — anyone who served after September 2001 — are returning with a service-connected disability, as well.

Disabled vets are working almost as much as nondisabled veterans, however (an unemployment rate of 9.4 percent among disabled in August 2011 vs. 7.5 percent among nondisabled, according to the Current Population Survey*), with many of those jobs in the public sector and federal government. Overall, veterans have an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent, mirroring that of those who have not served in the military. In the 18-24 age bracket, ex-military unemployment is at a much higher percentage of 29.1 percent, much higher than the rate of 17.6 percent for non vets in the same age group.

Last year brought the debut of a series of 100-fairs aimed at veterans and military families, hosted by Service Nation: Mission Serve.** Some 1,700 jobhunters attended the largest hiring fair of the series.

What are these candidates bringing to the table? Post-military personnel come to the workforce armed with marketable skills. “The U.S. military is the largest user of technology worldwide, so veterans in general are technically savvy,” says Debbie Gregory, CEO of the job site MiltaryConnection.com. “They are disciplined and understand the chain of command, as well as being team players. As an employer, I am consistently impressed with the superior work ethic, which also extends to military spouses. Transitioning military also are generally in good physical condition, drug free, without criminal records, and many hold various current security clearances, making them highly viable for defense contractors. This is a highly diverse group of candidates, satisfying diversity and inclusion needs of employers.”

A Google search reveals many websites catering specifically to this category of jobseekers. We consulted with Debbie Gregory of MilitaryConnection.com, as well as representatives from the online military community Military.com, for a list of the industries where the most ex-military personnel find work.

Experts from both websites mentioned the following industries as major employers:

· Defense

· Technical, including computer programming, software & development, telecommunications, and IT specialists

· Security, law enforcement, and public safety

· Health care (physicians, nurses, allied health, as well as medical management, billing, coding, and support)

· Franchises and business management

Most of the above industries are intuitive, but the following slides will highlight some of the other industries that employ many post-military workers.

Gregory points out that programs are in place to help get ex-military personnel into the workforce, regardless of their previous training, although not all vets are aware of their options. With the post-9/11 GI Bill, for example, “Not only is tuition directly paid to a college, university, and trade school, including online schools,” she explains, “the veteran receives tax-free living expenses when taking 12 weekly hours, based on an E-5 rank with dependents, and the zip code of the school they attend. In my zip code, it is about $2,000 a month. They also receive $1,000 a year toward books.”

There’s financial motivation for employers to hire veterans, as well. Tax credits come off the employer’s FICA contributions.

According to Gregory, however, leaving no soldier behind is also simply the right thing to do: “Only 1 percent serve, so the rest of us need to make sure they can achieve the American dream, and that starts with having a good job.”

* Employment percentages provided by Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor
** NOTE: CNBC’s parent company NBCUniversal is a sponsor of Mission Serve

By Colleen KaneOriginally posted July 2011
Updated 20 March 2012

Photo: Getty Images