Survey Finds Barriers to Hiring Veterans

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"Hiring Veterans Image"The Society for Human Resource Management reports that more companies have been hiring veterans during the past year and a half, but many companies said they had made no specific effort to recruit veterans, even with federal tax credits for hiring them.

The poll was conducted in January 2012 among 359 human resource professionals and reflected employment practices for the previous 36 months. The poll found that two-thirds of those responding had hired veterans in 2011, an 11-percent increase from 2010, but organizations with fewer than 100 employees were less likely to hire veterans in the previous 36 months than those with more workers.

The survey found that 82 percent of publicly owned for-profit companies and 91 percent of government agencies had hired veterans, but only 55 percent of privately owned for-profit companies had given jobs to veterans during the 36-month period. In addition, 71 percent of those who had not hired a veteran made no specific effort to recruit and hire veterans and had no plans to do so.

The poll found that employers who hired veterans cited their outstanding skills and responsibility—97 percent said veterans had a strong sense of responsibility, and 96 percent reported they have the ability to complete the jobs assigned to them. Nearly all the companies that hired veterans said they had a strong obligation to hire veterans to show gratitude for their service.

“We have witnessed higher unemployment rates among veterans than non-veterans for several years,” said Washington Headquarters Executive Director Barry Jesinoski. “Based on the poll, it appears there is a lack of knowledge of where to find qualified veterans and concerns about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mental illness and injury.”

The survey reported that 13 percent of human resource professionals were very familiar with effective resources for finding veterans to work—such as the Labor Department’s Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program and Local Veterans’ Employment Representative Program. About one-third of government agencies knew of the programs.

Employers were using websites such as Career Builder, Monster and Indeed, which they considered the most effective tools to recruit veteran employees.

The poll said that 52 percent of those responding cited difficulty transitioning to the civilian workplace and half believed translating military skills to civilian jobs as the leading impediments to hiring veterans. A lesser barrier was employers’ perception of readjustment issues and PTSD, with 42 percent of those responding citing them as a challenge. Experts estimate the PTSD rates among combat veterans ofTo offset these impediments, Congress recently approved the Veterans Opportunity to Work and Hire Heroes Act, which provides tax incentives for employers hiring unemployed veterans and creates a program to help unemployed veterans upgrade their skills for jobs in demand. But the survey found that even with the tax benefits available, 31 percent of companies were very unlikely or unlikely to actively recruit and hire unemployed veterans and almost 40 percent were very unlikely or unlikely to recruit veterans with service-related illness or injury.

Under the new law’s Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, the VA reported it had approved 45,000 slots for new training and education programs offered by a community college or technical school. The VA aims to accept 54,000 applications in 2013.

The retraining program provides eligible veterans $1,473 per month for a year to obtain an associate’s degree, non-college degree or certificate for any of the 200 high-demand occupations as defined by the Labor Department.

Veterans must be 35 to 60 years old, unemployed on the date of application and not dishonorably discharged. They cannot be eligible for any other VA education benefit program, must not have been enrolled in a federal or state job-training program within the previous 180 days and not be receiving VA compensation due to individual unemployability.

“The law is providing needed tax incentives for businesses to hire unemployed veterans,” said Jesinoski. “But it is clear that the VA and other federal agencies need to reach out to potential employers to inform them of the resources to find veteran candidates and to overcome the reluctance to hire injured and ill veterans.”

In fiscal year 2011, 28.5 percent of the total hires by the federal government were veterans—the most in more than 20 years, according to the Veterans Employment Council.

“It’s clear that the employment outlook for veterans needs to improve as we move into 2013,” said National Adjutant Arthur H. Wilson. “It would be of great benefit to veterans if the actions of corporations who are hiring veterans would be duplicated by those employers who don’t seek and don’t plan to hire veterans.”

DAV’s legislative goals call for Congress to provide adequate funding for veterans’ employment and training programs. Congress is also being asked to support licensing and certification of active duty service members and outreach and employment for women veterans.

Programs to help veterans translate their military skills to civilian jobs were supported by 78 percent of those responding to the human resources poll. Meanwhile, programs to help veterans transition from the military culture to the civilian workplace were supported by 73 percent of the companies.

“Unemployment is a serious problem for our returning veterans,” said Jesinoski. “Ever so slowly though, our nation’s businesses are recognizing that veterans make excellent employees if given the chance. It is in our nation’s best interests to ensure that veterans get the jobs they are qualified for and eliminate the impediments that currently exist.”