- Companies Don't Want to Employ Service Members: I believe there are a few reasons for this. It all comes back to one thing in the end - we are not viewed as a wise investment. Less than 1% of the population has shouldered the burden of fighting the wars over the last decade. A lot of it by Reserve and National Guard components that were gone for prolonged periods of time and for multiple deployments. This absence left a really bad taste in employers' mouths, spending the money to train people to do a job and then watching the money they spend 'squandered' as the service member leaves to go overseas. For a lot of small businesses, they didn't have the money to spend to train someone else. The strain this put on local economies was huge. As for the large, public companies that do have the money, they answer to the whims of the investor. I wonder how much having to retrain people and hire temps to fill vacant positions affected the bottom lines for these companies as well. I would wager that it affects profitability for them too.
- Stigmatization of Combat Veterans (Especially Those with PTSD): There is a general lack of education on the part of employers as to what this means. A lot of people believe that combat veterans are a danger to themselves and others. Add PTSD to the equation and veterans are likely to go 'John Rambo' on them. Yeah...Um. No? A service-connected disability is a protected employment status. Veterans do not have to disclose anything more than they have a disability and what they need for reasonable accommodation. What they fail to comprehend is that PTSD happens to people in all walks of life. They are employing people with all sorts of medical issues and it's illegal to discriminate against them. The benefits of hiring a veteran far outweigh the risks. We're punctual, good under pressure, adapt to the situation, have great decision-making skills, have leadership experience/potential, and are used to operating in a team environment. The veterans that are in dire need of work are the same ones that have the potential to drive growth, long term.
- Many Veterans Want to Work For Themselves But Don't Have the Skills to Make That a Reality: A large number of the veterans that I talk to want to start their own business because they do not want to have to answer to anyone else ever again. They want to be the one who makes the business decisions and sets the ethical tone of the workplace. One small problem: They don't know how to go about doing that. There are a ton of resources out there for veterans who want to start their own business. The problem is that they are not under the purview of one organization. Some resources are Federal, some are State, some are private, some are Local, and none are located in the same place. You have Federal and State Small Business Administrations, Small Business Development Centers, Local Economic Development Corporations, Entrepreneurship Bootcamps, etc. Do any of these organizations really even talk to each other? Not really. This is the problem that needs to be addressed. In a lot of areas (like Allentown, PA where I live) veteran businesses have the potential to provide the strong core of economic revitalization and that resource is not being actively utilized.
I hope that this has put the issue in greater context. My greatest desire is that we all have the opportunity to pursue our wildest hopes and dreams. We are uniquely qualified to turn those dreams into reality if someone would just afford us the opportunity to make it happen.