Veterans Returning to the Workplace

This is FREE sample
This text is free, available online and used for guidance and inspiration. Need a 100% unique paper? Order a custom essay.
  • Any subject
  • Within the deadline
  • Without paying in advance
Get custom essay

As of 2016, there are 21 million veterans living in the United States, and since 2001, over 2.8 million veterans have transitioned into civilian life. (Maury, 1) This is a substantial demographic, and a good deal of them face a number of significant hurdles when attempting to make the transition from a military career to a civilian career. They tend to enter society with very specialized skillsets that may not carry over well into the civilian realm. Many of them are dealing with permanently life changing wounds and injuries, whether they be visible or otherwise.

A number of soldiers have never held a job outside of the military, and have trouble adjusting to the less rigid work environment. These are very unique problems that require specialized solutions. Veterans re-entering the civilian workforce face a variety of challenges, with some stemming from their service and others becoming issues after separation, and while resources are being made available to them, successful integration often requires effort from both the veteran and his or her employer.

Unfortunately, many of the problems faced by veterans in re-entry emerge from the personal costs of their military service. While the majority of military service members make it home relatively unscathed, a great deal of them do not. A survey published by the Pew Research Center found that 43% of post-9/11 veterans returned home having experienced at least one significant event that they found emotionally traumatic or distressing. The report went on to name this as the largest obstacle facing former service members, asserting that such an experience decreases a veteran’s odds of successful reintegration by about 26%. (Morin, 4)

Over half of the reported 43% of veterans must deal with flashbacks or repeated memories of the event, and about 46% say they have been afflicted by post-traumatic stress. Of those dealing with this intense form of stress, only about 34% found their transition into the civilian world easy, whereas 82% of soldiers without post-traumatic stress found their transition fairly easy. (Morin, 5) Post-traumatic stress can manifest itself in a variety of ways, often affecting a veteran’s work performance, and potentially keeping a former service member from getting a job in the first place.

A study commissioned by Volunteers of America, an organization that helps veterans find jobs, detailed some of the ways in which post-traumatic stress can impact job performance. They found that the affected veterans often missed work, had difficulties relating to coworkers, and became easily frustrated with job tasks. This ultimately leads to lower levels of job satisfaction, and often results in the employee either being fired or leaving. (Kintzle, 11) Additionally, as the report goes on to point out, many employers are averse to even hiring someone who suffers from post-traumatic stress. Substance abuse is common among veterans suffering from this affliction, and many employers are simply unwilling to take a chance on an employee that they think could be mentally unstable. (Kintzle, 10)

Injuries present yet another roadblock to veterans attempting to re-enter the workforce. As a report published by the RAND Corporation pointed out, soldiers in the post-9/11 era are surviving extensive injuries that would have been far too complex to recover from in previous eras. While this is obviously great overall, it results in many veterans returning home with permanent impairment that can make life significantly more difficult. (Osilla, 1) According to the Pew survey, roughly 16% of post-9/11 soldiers suffer a serious injury while in service.

This was identified as another major factor affecting a veteran’s ability to re-enter the workforce, decreasing the odds of successful integration by roughly 19%. (Morin, 4) Almost 80% of all modern serious injuries in the military are caused by blasts from improvised explosive devices, and the degree to which these injuries affect re-entry depends on the individual and the injury. As injury survival rates have risen from roughly 70% during the Vietnam war, to roughly 90% post-9/11, amputation of limbs has nearly doubled. Explosions from IEDs are also notorious for disfiguring the faces and bodies of soldiers, adding nearly insurmountable stress to the re-entry process, and potentially limiting mobility. (Osilla, 2)

These physical impairments obviously require the veteran to find a job that can accommodate his unique needs. There have also been a number of head and neck wounds in the post-9/11 era, accounting for roughly a third of all casualties, and leading to over 229,000 cases of traumatic brain injury since 2000. (Osilla 2) As Anna Zogaz, Ph.D. explains, although traumatic brain injuries have less visible effects, they can be just as detrimental to reintegration. These injuries can severely affect cognition and memory, change how one handles their emotions, and cause major mood swings long after the initial impact. (Zogaz, 6)

Even without post-traumatic stress and physical injuries, re-entry into the workforce can be extremely challenging. The Volunteers of America study found that, in general, unpreparedness is one of the most prominent issues facing veterans when attempting re-entry. The study found that many veterans return with the unrealistic expectation that they will enter the civilian workforce at roughly the same level they left the military at, and be paid about the same.

This often leads to feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction, and can affect work performance. (Kintzle, 8) Yet another potential problem for former service members is an inability to translate their military skills to civilian skills. Career fields within the military tend to be highly specialized, and the skills learned sometimes have an application that is fairly exclusive to the military. (Kintzle, 9) Even if there is some crossover between the military and civilian side of a given career field, that field could potentially be extremely small, and the veteran may not be guaranteed a job. (Kintzle, 14)

This is a serious issue, considering the fact that, according to a survey done by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, nine out of ten veterans identified the opportunity to use their learned skills and abilities as the most important aspect of their civilian employment. (Maury, 3) Many veterans who are not able to translate their skills to the civilian world feel like they are being forced to start their careers over fresh, potentially leading to feelings of hopelessness and anger. This frustration can give way to feelings of alienation, as the veteran is forced to shed pieces of his military identity as he settles into the less rigid work environment. (Kintzle, 11)

A Congressional Budget Office report on military unemployment highlighted several other issues faced by former service members attempting to transition into civilian employment. Usually, service members move great distances after leaving their final duty station, which means that they rarely have any job opportunities lined up upon arrival. Additionally, many fresh veterans have never had a job outside of the military, making the career search even more difficult. (Bass, 2) The Volunteers of America report found that the large majority of veterans, across all demographics, felt that the military’s transitional support was inadequate. (Kintzle, 9)

Nonetheless, the military has taken a number of steps to alleviate some of the stress of transitioning into the civilian world. The Pew survey found that being a college graduate increased your chances of easy re-entry by about 5%, while officers were about 10% more likely to find their re-entry easy. (Morin, 7) It may seem obvious, but a college education certainly makes it easier to enter the civilian workforce. For this reason, the military has decided to subsidize the college education of service members through the GI Bill.

This program can be taken advantage of after separation; however, it will only help with reintegration if the service member has already completed his coursework. Otherwise, he risks facing many of the same pitfalls attributable to stress and injury that apply to veterans searching for careers. (Zogas, 6) Over the past decade, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs has made several changes intended to help veterans with re-entry. Prior to 2008, veterans were required to go through a lengthy bureaucratic process and receive an individual diagnosis before undergoing any sort of treatment. Since then, the process has been streamlined for post-9/11 veterans, allowing them to take advantage of supportive services like free counseling and educational support programs during the five years following their separation, without the need for a formal diagnosis. (Zogas, 10)

Vocational rehabilitation has also been implemented for use with former service members whose abilities were changed by a service-related disability. This program includes support for on-the-job training, post-secondary training, and individual case management. (Zogas, 11) Additionally, there are programs in place created to incentivize companies to hire unemployed veterans. One such program was established by the American Jobs Act in September of 2011. This program grants tax credits to businesses worth up to $5,600 for hiring unemployed veterans, and a separate credit of up to $9,600 for hiring veterans with service-related disabilities who have been unemployed more than six months. (Osilla, 3)

The transition from service member to civilian can be excruciatingly difficult for some. Many veterans return with job skills that might not land them careers, and unfounded expectations that success will come easily. Others return with debilitating, permanent injuries, or a weakened mental state that leaves them struggling to remember basic information. Some veterans come back with the invisible scars of post-traumatic stress, and a feeling of separation from the world at large. With so many potential roadblocks, an easy re-entry into the civilian world is far from guaranteed. However, with the right support, reintegration is possible.


  1. Bass, E., & Golding, H. (2017, May). Transitioning From the Military to the Civilian Workforce: The Role of Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Servicemembers(Rep.). Retrieved February 24, 2019, from Congressional Budget Office website: https://www.cbo.gov/system/files?file=115th-congress-2017-2018/reports/52503-transitionreport.pdf
  2. Kintzle, S., Keeling, M., Xintarianos, E., Taylor-Diggs, K., Munch, C., Hassan, A., & Castro, C. (2015, May). EXPLORING THE ECONOMIC & EMPLOYMENT CHALLENGES FACING U.S. VETERANS: A Qualitative Study of Volunteers of America Service Providers & Veteran Clients(Rep.). Retrieved February 24, 2019, from Volunteers of America website: http://cir.usc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/CIR-VOA-Report-FF.pdf
  3. Maury, R., Stone, B., & Roseman, J. (2016, October). The Difficult Transition From Military to Civilian Life(Rep.). Retrieved February 24, 2019, from The Institute for Veterans and Military Families website: https://ivmf.syracuse.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/VetAdvisor-ReportFINAL-Single-pages.pdf
  4. Morin, R. (2011, December 8). The Difficult Transition from Military to Civilian Life(Rep.). Retrieved February 24, 2019, from Pew Research Center website: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/12/08/the-difficult-transition-from-military-to-civilian-life/
  5. Osilla, K., & Van Busum, K. (2012). Labor Force Reentry: Issues for Injured Service Members and Veterans(Rep. No. OP-374-OSD). doi:10.7249/OP374
  6. Zogas, A. (2017, February). US Military Veterans’ Difficult Transitions Back to Civilian Life and the VA’s Response(Rep.). Retrieved February 24, 2019, from The Watson Institute of International & Public Affairs website: https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/papers/2017/Zogas_Veterans’Transitions_CoW_2.1.17.pdf

Cite this paper

Veterans Returning to the Workplace. (2021, Feb 26). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/veterans-returning-to-the-workplace/

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Peter is on the line!

Don't settle for a cookie-cutter essay. Receive a tailored piece that meets your specific needs and requirements.

Check it out