Daily Video

April 4, 2011

Returning Vets Face Tough Job Market

NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman examines some of the challenges facing military men and women when they return to civilian life after serving in battle. There are more than two million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Despite incentives to hire them, 11 percent were jobless last month; for those aged 18 to 34, 14 percent.

While in the military, soldiers learn the key job skills while serving their country: selflessness, loyalty, teamwork, leadership yet to employers, they have fallen behind. To combat these difficult times, one veteran has formed an organization, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America that among other things lobby’s Congress to introduce incentives for employers to hire veterans such as tax breaks.

Programs like the Veterans Curation Project ease the transition by teaching vets current computing skills, for example, to archive artifacts found during Army Corps of Engineers’ projects. Employers admit to other fears with hiring veterans. In a survey last year, 46 percent of human-resource managers agreed that PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health issues posed a challenge. According to a 2008 RAND study, nearly one-third of Iraq and Afghanistan vets had symptoms of PTSD, major depression, or had experienced a traumatic brain injury.

While the Veterans Curation Project aims to help returning veterans transition to civilian life, there are still hundreds of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans jobless, and thousands more are slated to return home in the months ahead.


“You feel like you have lost who you are as a person, your value.” Debra Bain, U.S. military veteran

“They’re coming home from serving our country, sometimes multiple tours, and their welcome home is an unemployment check.” Paul Rieckhoff, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

“In the military, there’s a sense of security with — you know, financial security, and there’s also a sense of community. When I separated, I lost all that. I was isolated out here in Maryland. And so that made going to school incredibly difficult.” Erik Vadalma, U.S. military veteran

Warm Up Questions

1.What is a veteran?

2.What is post-traumatic stress disorder?

3.What is unemployment?

Discussion Questions

1.Why do you think it is so difficult for military veterans to find employment after returning from war?

2.Do you think having a college degree or specialty training would help veterans find jobs in their field? Why or why not?

3.Would you join the military? Why or why not?

Additional Resources

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