Employment Issues Facing Returning Veterans

When service members leave the military and return to civilian life, they may have challenges they did not expect. A common area where service members struggle is adjusting to the workplace.

What are commons challenges for veterans trying to find a job?

Experience interpretation

The training service members get and the skills they specialize are not always what employers are looking for. This is especially true for service members who joined the service from high school or at a young age. These service members have spent little or no time at a job. This puts them at a disadvantage since on a resume they lack experience. Also, these service members might have never looked, applied, or been interviewed for a job. Service members need to learn how to describe their skills to make them attractive for a job

Qualities like: problem solving, leadership, ethics, and time management may be part of the veteran’s skill set. Veterans need to learn how to show those qualities to employers in a meaningful way.

Unrealistic expectations

Service members may become experts in several things during their time in service. While the military may train service members to a high standard, employer may require a certification or degree to apply for certain roles. Sometimes certification may be required by law.

Service members should also consider what job may be the best fit for them. Experiences such as supervising troops in the military might not be as identical of an experience as supervising an entire office team. Returning veterans need help understanding the scope of their military training and figuring out how that training translates to a civilian job.

Employer bias

Some employers might not consider military experience as work experience and would consider service as a gap in a resume. Employers may also worry that the veteran may struggle readjusting, impacting their job performance. They may also be hesitant to hire veterans because of ongoing health problems that would make them absent from work.

Returning to a job

Service members who are returning to their job after serving need to quickly adjust to resuming their old job or a similar job with their employer. These returning service members may return to their job in as little as three days from being in a combat zone.

Returning to work may mean quickly having to catch up to the team, learning new skills or processes, or adapting to a new position.

Inability to shed military identity

Some veterans report having a hard time getting along with coworkers. They view dealing with different attitudes and work ethics on the job may be challenging for a returning veteran. After years of discipline and precision, civilian attitudes may be hard to accept.

Unlike their time in the military, there is also the possibility of the veteran being placed in a job where competition is encouraged over teamwork. Veterans may also be overwhelmed by the amount of freedom they are given to make choices in the workplace.

What support is available for service members to get a civilian job?

A support program for service members who are ready to enter or return to a civilian workplace is the Transition Assistance Program (TAP). This program provides training for service members and their loved ones to successfully prepare for their move from the military to civilian life.

TAP is a required program for service member exiting the military which is made up of a combination of in-person events and virtual modules. The program is divided into steps in a 12-month timeline which guides service members to veteran benefits, education options, federal assistance, and employment support.

How does TAP get me ready for a civilian job?

Individualized initial counseling

TAP begins with a 1-on-1 session with a TAP counselor. Service members complete a self-assessment, and begin creating their Individual Transition Plan (ITP) that helps them understand what to expect from TAP.

Typically, members complete individualized initial counseling 1 year prior to exiting the military. Learn more about individualize initial counseling.

Pre-separation counseling

Like individualized initial counseling, service members typically complete pre-separation counseling 1 year before exiting the military. This session goes over benefits, entitlements, and resources available to eligible service members.

Caregivers and family members are encouraged to join pre-separation counseling with the service member. Learn more about pre-separation counseling.

The Department of Defense (DOD) Transition Day

  1. Managing transition: Service members learn about the types of readjusting they will experience by returning to civilian life. Topics may include civilian workplaces, transition-related stressors, and how to ask for. Military and civilian resources are provided to support during and after transition for service members and their family members.
  2. Military occupational code crosswalk: Suggestions are given to service members on how to turn their military experience into skills for a civilian job. It also allows service members to identify where they may have gaps in training or experience to meet their new career goals.
  3. Financial planning for transition: Explains how transitioning may impacts a service member’s finances. Service members may include changes in income, taxes, healthcare, and new expenses. Online tools exist that help a service members calculate military-to-civilian income.

VA Benefits and Services Briefing

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ briefing teaches service members about VA benefits and programs based on needs. The VA highlights stories of service share how benefits are used.

Department of Labor (DOL) Employment Fundamentals of Career Transition (EFCT)

The EFCT covers tools and resources service members may use to look at career options, get information about civilian employment and give an overview of the job process.

For service members who are retiring after 20 years of service, this item is optional.

Specialize transition assistance program career tracks

TAP includes a 2-day individual track designed to help with personal goals. These tracks are the:

  • Employment Track,
  • Vocational Track,
  • Education Track,
  • and Small Business Administration Entrepreneurship Track.

Service members are asked to select at least one track but may attend more than one based on their individualized transition plan.

Learn more about TAP specialized tracks.

TAP Capstone

After attending and completing all TAP courses and briefings, a capstone event will certify that all transition steps have been completed and that career readiness standards (CRS) have been met.

Learn more about TAP capstone.

Individual service’s transition programs are found here:

How do I begin getting forms to create a resume?

When exiting the military, the service member’s branch will verify their military experience and training. To do so, a Verification of Military Experiences and Training (VMET) form DD- 2586 is generated that includes the service member’s knowledge, experience and skills gained in the military. The VMET includes:

Military experience and training,

Recommended college-credit information, and

Civilian-equivalent job titles.

The VMET helps service members prepare resumes and job applications.

Are there military programs for service members with disabilities who want to get a job?

Veterans who have a service-related disability that limits their ability to perform a job, the Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program may help. This program helps those with disabilities find jobs or address education or training requirements.

Depending on the needs of the veteran, help may include:

  • An evaluation to find out the abilities, skills, and interest of the service member,
  • Job-related counseling and rehabilitation planning,
  • Job training, resume development, and other work-readiness support,
  • Help with locating and maintaining a job, including employer incentives and job accommodations,
  • On-the-job training (OJT), apprenticeships, and non-paid work experiences, Post-secondary education and training at a traditional, vocational, technical, or business,
  • Supportive rehabilitation services including case management, counseling, and medical referrals, and
  • Independent living services to set the veteran up for success.

In some cases, family members may be eligible for benefits too.

VR&E provides 5 support-and-services tracks veterans with disabilities may choose:

Learn more about VR&E eligibility and how to apply.

What are educational programs that may help me get a job?

The GI Bill is a benefit service members may be eligible for that helps them reach their and their family’s education goals. These programs provide financial assistance paying for tuition, job training, or other types of education. See more about the GI Bill.

Are there other types of programs that help service members get a job?

The Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program (VRRAP) helps connect service members to education and trainings for high-demand jobs. This program is designed for veterans who are unemployed because of a disruption of work due to COVID-19.

VRAAP offers trainings for high-demand professions like:

  • CDL driver,
  • Cosmetology,
  • Cybersecurity,
  • Dental assistant,
  • HVAC technician,
  • Graphic design,
  • Massage therapists,
  • Medical insurance billing, and
  • Welding.

Service members that are eligible for other GI Bills are not eligible for this program.

For eligible service members, VRAAP covers up to 12 months of tuition and fees and provides a monthly housing allowance.

Learn more about eligibility and how to apply.

Where can I find programs that may be able to help me get a job?

CareerOneStop’s Veterans and Military Center:

  • Search jobs by skills,
  • Discover education and training options like certification, apprenticeships, and licensing, and
  • Locate government benefits.

VA.govs’s Career and employment section:

  • Locate jobs that accommodate for disabilities,
  • Provide education and career counseling,
  • Resources to start your own business, and
  • Department of labor resources for veterans and their loved ones.

Warriors to Work - Veteran Employment Program:

  • Job placement opportunities,
  • Assistance with interview preparation, and
  • Networking opportunities provided.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring our Heroes:

  • Connect with recruiters and attend job fairs,
  • List of jobs by industry and locations, and
  • Build and post resume for employers.

  • Employment opportunities by state,
  • Help from the small business administration to start a business,
  • One-on-one assistance in career exploration, training, resume builder and skills translator.

Veterans Employment Center (VEC):

  • Public and private employer job openings,
  • Career counseling support,
  • Information on starting a small business.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN)

  • Free, expert, and confidential guidance on job accommodations and disability issues,
  • Self-employment and entrepreneurship options for people with disabilities,
  • Inform on policy and laws pertaining to Title I of the ADA.

Where can I be connected to federal jobs?

Feds Hire Vets:

Feds Hire Vets explain the federal hiring process, how the veteran preference works for federal jobs, and describe special hiring authorities for veterans.

Federal Apprenticeships for Veterans:

Assists service members and veterans find high-skill, well-paying apprenticeships.

VA for Vets

Virtual job boards for the department of Veterans affairs, federal, and civilian jobs.

Veterans’ Preference Employment

Provides guidance on veterans’ preference in federal hiring.

Federal Government Employment

Step by step walkthrough to apply for jobs on USAJOBS, the federal government’s jobs portal.

Are there career or industry specific job programs?

Troops to Teachers

U.S. Department of Education and Department of Defense program to attract eligible service members to a new career as teachers.

Helmet to Hardhats

Connects service members to job opportunities in construction.

Veterans In Piping Program

Welding training program for veterans that includes transitional training to prepare for civilian life.

Wall Street Warfighter Foundation

Program to prepare disabled veterans enter a career in the financial services industry.

American Corporate Partners (ACP)

Mentoring program dedicated to assisting service members through career counseling, networking, and mentoring.

Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship

Program created to empower women veterans and military spouses/partners to learn business skills and to turn an idea into a business.

Are there Arizona based organizations that may help me find a job?

Arizona Department of Veterans' Services

The Arizona Department of Veteran’s Services has gathered an include list of resources including a job posting, information on economic programs, and training programs.

Arizona Coalition for Military Families – Be Connected

Be Connected is a program to increase access to support and resources for veterans and their loved ones. They may match service members to the appropriate resources available and provide necessary trainings for any gaps in knowledge or skills a service member may have.

Arizona Department of Economic Security - Veteran Services

The primary objective of the Veterans Program is to increase opportunities for veterans and eligible spouses to obtain employment and job training in Arizona.

Maricopa County – Veterans Resources

Portal that provides access to veteran-specific programs, services and resources provided by Maricopa County and other public sector or community sites that support service members, veterans and their families.

This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

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