Careers After Combat: Employment and Education Challenges
Each year, over 300,000 troops complete their military service. Between the often-difficult transition to civilian life and the struggling American economy, these new veterans are facing an uncertain economic future.
- Many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans leave the active-duty military only to find that their skills are not understood by civilian employers. Among Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans of the active-duty military, the unemployment rate was over 8 percent in 2007, which may be as much as 2 percent higher than their civilian peers.
- National Guardsmen and Reservists, who typically serve in the military part-time, are seeing their civilian lives disrupted by multiple combat tours. Many reservists returning from combat are not being promptly reemployed, or are not receiving the pay, pensions, health care coverage, and other benefits that they are entitled to. More than 40 percent of reservists lose income when they mobilize.
- Reserve component small-business owners are especially challenged by deployments. About 22 percent of self-employed reservists said that their recent activation had been a “serious” or “very serious” problem for their business.
The experience of previous generations of veterans suggests that today’s veterans may continue to struggle economically for years to come. Vietnam veterans earned significantly less than their civilian peers for decades after the war’s end.
The passage of the landmark “Post-9/11” GI Bill will make college affordable for an entire generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. But for the hundreds of thousands of veterans seeking employment or struggling to reintegrate into their civilian jobs, more must be done.
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