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It's Time to Tackle Veteran Unemployment

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The veteran unemployment rate across the United States remains dauntingly high, and new, innovative approaches are needed to prevent an epidemic. Instead of measuring its strength in terms of sheer quantity, the community of new veterans and its supporters must think in terms of quality and detach itself from rhetorical, shotgun-blast solutions to veteran unemployment. It is time to tackle long-term veteran unemployment through long-term solutions and we can only do this by leading from the front. If veterans within corporations, think tanks, federal agencies, and other organizations are not seeking veteran employees, why should anyone else?

In theory, we should be our own best salesmen, yet we remain timid and indecisive when it comes to hiring veterans. Why? Over the course of the past decade thousands of veterans have graduated from the nation's foremost trade and professional schools, yet veteran unemployment remains stubbornly high. There is no excuse for this and we are essentially committing fratricide here on the home front. To be clear, I'm not proposing a coerced "Hire Vets First" campaign, but rather highlighting our failures to this community, which should be an influential and emergent network -- but instead slogs along as a yet underrepresented, fractured and unconnected population.

Every major metropolitan area is home to countless veterans who are positioned to act as mentors and advocates for newly transitioning vets. However, no well-designed professional online community exists with centralized, precise databases connecting military service members and veterans to one another. How difficult or complicated would it be, for example, to match transitioning veterans with mentors standing by to help shepherd their transition? There remains an untapped and invaluable network of veterans that has yet to be leveraged, and we have only ourselves to blame for this. We must start leading from the front -- and there's good news.

One example of a potentially ground-breaking platform for vets from vets is RallyPoint.com. Set to launch in the summer of 2012, and co-founded by fellow Army combat veterans and Harvard Business School classmates Yinon Weiss and Aaron Kletzing, RallyPoint aims to revolutionize the way active duty service members and transitioning veterans connect, develop, and pursue fulfilling career opportunities. RallyPoint plans to leverage cutting-edge technology and data visualization apps to -- among other powerful features -- place active, reserve and transitioning veterans into contact with mentors, colleagues, and civilian recruiters throughout the military and veteran communities. RallyPoint could embody an outside the box solution that harnesses social networking technology to create value for service members during and after their active duty careers. Veteran-led initiatives like RallyPoint represent a long overdue and critical step toward combating rising veteran unemployment, and may serve as a necessary catalyst for long-term solutions. Startups like RallyPoint -- and a stronger commitment from fellow veterans -- are necessary to assist in eliminating sustained, high levels of veteran unemployment.

We cannot rely solely on the Veterans Administration to address the myriad growing needs of returning veterans. As veterans who have successfully navigated the transition, we owe the newcomers objective honesty about the potential struggles ahead while providing them with a network of mentors willing to assist with their transition. No matter how many years one has spent in the military, transitioning out can be a lonely and agonizing struggle. Let's make it easier for these vets by supporting value-added programs like RallyPoint and others that will help empower one of our nation's most precious resources.