We observed Memorial Day by remembering the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. As this day of remembrance passes, we should be considering today’s military veterans who have served and returned home from the Middle East. I am writing this post in an effort to help these veterans not so much reflect back, but rather look ahead to their futures. What our veterans need most are jobs, work and a new mission, or purpose, in life. I have decided to take the opportunity between now and Veterans Day to talk less and do more for our military veterans. I would like to introduce a new initiative called Employable Vets, which is based upon five areas of resolution.
What follows is a roadmap to a better future for military veterans and our country. When America empowered its veterans following WWII, we created the longest period of sustained prosperity and growth the United States has ever known. Let us do the same for today’s veterans. And, by helping our veterans, we will help our communities and economy succeed.
5 Resolutions to Empower Military Veterans Now
1. Connect government agencies that serve military communities and other sectors of the US economy. For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) should be working closely with the Small Business Administration (SBA). We know the VA already serves veterans to the best of their ability. However, the VA is often isolated by serving the same communities. So, let’s be practical and play safe percentages. The majority of people in the U.S. either own or work for small businesses and 2/3 of all new jobs come from these types of employers. This is why the SBA should connect up with the VA to empower more military veterans. By doing so, their agency would be in a proactive position to deliver useful resources that will actually help returning vets secure jobs or start new businesses.
2. Use the past decade of government investment in the military to drive our economy forward. We can use our extensive investments in the military for more than the war on terrorism. The idea of turning “swords into plowshares” is based upon the proven practice of converting military technologies and the capabilities of people who have served into civilian applications and jobs during peacetime. Our history is full of recent examples (i.e., the internet and mobile telephony) of investments started in the military which grew into careers and industries that benefitted of our overall economy. Many leaders, who have served in the military, have contributed to and been equally successful in civilian life. We have done it before, we can do it again. And, when we do it again, it will help our veterans.
3. Develop useful resources and share proven methods that will empower military veterans to find new jobs and relocate to second careers. While it is a start, we must go beyond government tax incentives and credits for employers to hire veterans. For example, we can do more to help veterans understand different types of civilian job markets and share proven practices of successful networking, which will allow veterans to effectively search for and ultimately find a job.
4. Determine the right amount, and type, of education needed. The military instills leadership and trains its service members. Yet some of the skills and knowledge required for civilian jobs may be missing. We should help veterans honestly assess their employment potential and show them how to fill voids by intelligently evaluating the best education providers and programs available. For-profit education businesses who actively recruit military students are not solution providers. They are merely using the Post-9/11 GI Bill as a government subsidy to improve their bottom line. Evaluating the best education providers and programs would allow the VA to confidently encourage full use of education benefits and have veterans exercise responsible spending as they transition out of military service into new, private-sector careers.
5. Turn sympatetic hearts into purple hearts. (Please Note: The following is written with tremendous respect and deference to those who have served and lost their lives, or been seriously injured, in the military serving our country. No disrespect whatsoever is intended or implied.) As much as the mainstream media in the U.S. would like us all to think and believe, not every officer or soldier who was been deployed to the Middle East Post-9/11 has PTSD or is missing a limb. While it is certainly a tragic outcome, we need to stop focusing exclusively on the hardships of war. This type of narrow focus causes employers to over emphasize the downside risks of hiring ex-military rather than understand the many benefits they can provide employers now. It prevents businesses from hiring very capable young men and women who have honorably served and have returned home more ready and willing then ever to serve their country again in a productive capacity.
When Mike Mullen was Joint Chiefs of Staff he said, “Our financial health is directly related to our national security.” Let’s complete the cycle and allow former military to bring our economy financial health. The majority of veterans today are healthy, talented and fully employable. By empowering them, we give ourselves every chance to succeed and help our economy regain full strength.