In a segment last week on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart highlighted the absurd employment market veterans come home to. Hosting a mock job interview for two former Army medics with combat tours in Iraq, Stewart emphasized the challenges veterans face when transitioning to the civilian workforce -- especially when it comes to obtaining civilian certifications and licensing.
Since she doesn't have a bachelor of science in nursing, nor did she take the national counsel licensing exam, Stewart asked former Staff Sergeant Meg Mitcham to explain some of her experiences that qualify her for an opening as a nurses aid. "We were driving down the road and a bomb went off, and a bunch of people got injured. So I used the resources I had at time to stabilize three different patients at the same time, stop bleeding, call in a medevac request, and ensure that they were kept alive until they reached a higher echelon of care in country," she recounted confidently. "But do you have a certification that said you did all that?" Stewart countered.
In the real world, the fact that young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans continue to face high unemployment levels is no laughing matter. Today's jobs report from the BLS shows post-9/11-era veterans are saddled with a 10 percent unemployment rate compared to a national rate of 7.9 percent.
Medics, truck drivers and mechanics -- whose in-field experience in many cases exceeds requirements for civilian credentials -- struggle to find meaningful work in the civilian sector. Disparate state and federal licensing requirements that fail to take into account military experience mean that vets have to go through years of school or pay for costly exams to do the same jobs they did in the military. And all because they don't have a piece of paper to vouch for their training. Not only is this an extra layer of bureaucracy for new vets to navigate, it's a waste of taxpayer's dollars. And that's not all. With an increasingly fewer number of Americans serving in the military, job-seeking vets no longer have the shared experience of military service to bridge the gap with HR departments in the civilian world. Young vets whose leadership experience often surpasses that of their civilian peers struggle to effectively communicate their valuable skills to civilian hiring managers.
As a nation we've invested billions in making our men and women in uniform the best trained in the world. But when vets return home, these hard-earned skills are too often going to waste. Despite some gains, the employment market is still tough -- particularly so for young veterans aged 18-24. In 2011, these veterans faced an average unemployment rate of 29 percent, significantly higher than that of their civilian peers at 18 percent. These men and women need help breaking through the barriers to the civilian workforce. We must do better by our service members, and we must hold our elected officials' feet to the fire to ensure that they will fight for veterans while in office. This election season is not the time for rhetoric, it is a time for action. If you want to know how to cast a smart vote for veterans, IAVA's got your back. Our Voter Guide outlines the top issues facing returning veterans and will help you ask the tough questions of our candidates. With your help, we can get new vets the support they need to grow into the next Greatest Generation.
Crossposted on IAVA.org.