As our country has been engaged in almost constant military conflict since 9/11, more than 2.5 million men and women have worn the uniform of the United States armed services.  However, with drawdowns overseas and what will most likely be smaller defense budgets in the coming years, more than 1 million service members will transition off of active duty into the civilian community over the next five years.  The most important question is: Where will they go and what will they do?

The need for change

As a result of the collective efforts of the Department of Defense, other federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and private sector businesses, we have seen the lowest unemployment rate in years for transitioning service members and military veterans. 

The fact, however, that post-9/11 military veterans under the age of 25 still face an unemployment rate higher than the national average underscores the need for those in the military hiring community to continue their dedicated work. Additionally, military spouses face a challenging unemployment rate of anywhere between 20 and 30 percent, depending on the demographics.

“... veterans under the age of 25 still face an unemployment rate higher than the national average ...”

Thinking ahead

At Hiring Our Heroes, a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, what we have found in our work is that perhaps the most important realization for those in the veterans employment space in recent years is the understanding of the need to communicate to military veterans the importance of planning for transition long before that separation date is actually upon them.

While a new position on active duty may be a guarantee every two to three years, many service members do not recognize the imperative of starting the networking and job-seeking process far in advance of the day that they pick up their discharge papers.

Coming together

As we observe Veterans Day this year and thank those who have worn the cloth of this nation, it is important that those of us who are in a position to influence this situation continue in our efforts.  Although service members must take an active part in their transition, it is on us to educate them on the opportunities that exist for them outside the military, and how to go about obtaining them.  This is not only an economic issue for the United States, but a national security issue. 

We ensure the longevity of the effectiveness our nation’s all-volunteer force by helping continue the success of those who now do their service in a civilian uniform.