This story appeared in Steve Peck’s blog at the Huffington Post on August 21, 2012. Check out Steve’s other blog posts here.
Recently, Vice President Joe Biden stopped by the U.S.VETS Las Vegas, leaving behind a lot of solid encouragement — and his tie.
The vice president and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, joined in one of the life skills workshops at the Las Vegas site, one of 11 U.S.VETS locations in the country. The Bidens expressed their appreciation for the veterans’ service, and focused on the problem of unemployment among veterans — especially young vets.
The visit was in conjunction with Joining Forces, the current administration’s ongoing effort to raise awareness of the unique needs of military families. “The U.S. government has only one solemn obligation,” the vice president said at the workshop. “We have many obligations, but only one solemn obligation — to prepare and equip those we send to war and to care for them and their families when they come home.”
It isn’t solely the responsibility of the government to provide for returning veterans, however. Our veterans need jobs. Business owners and corporations need to reach out and hire unemployed vets.
In June, The New York Times published a feature about brokerage firm Drexel Hamilton, which invests 20 percent of its expenses into the housing, education, and training of disabled veterans for careers in finance. The firm is owned and operated by Lawrence K. Doll, himself a disabled veteran who was injured during his service as a Marine in Vietnam. Doll knows firsthand the skills veterans have to offer — providing jobs for them isn’t just a patriotic duty, but good business sense.
Researchers at the USC School of Social work, who studied the problems between potential employers and veterans, have found that often civilian employers and veteran job seekers suffer from communication breakdowns. Their research suggests that businesses hire veterans in human resource departments to screen veteran applicants, as their shared experiences and challenges make it easier to analyze veterans’ unique skill sets.
While their training, leadership skills and discipline make many of them ideal job candidates, the veteran population is suffering greatly in the current economic climate. The national unemployment rate currently hovers near 8 percent, but nearly 30 percent of veterans aged 18 to 24 are unemployed.
Despite the obvious benefits to hiring veterans and recent initiatives to get vets back to work, some negative perceptions persist among business leaders. A lot of national media attention has focused on the number of veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injuries. While these issues are important and these veterans must be cared for, it is only part of the story. The perception that so many veterans come home damaged creates a negative and false stigma that hurts veterans who are healthy, willing and eager to work.
The fact is, most service members return from combat to lead productive, normal lives. Others come back bearing invisible wounds. It’s our duty to do everything we can to help these veterans through this difficult period so they can become successful members of our communities. They deserve our support.
Our veterans at the life skills workshop in Las Vegas walked away from class that day with the vice president’s support — and more. During the Bidens’ visit, Army veteran and U.S.VETS client Brian Bones asked if he could have the vice president’s tie as a souvenir. “You must have done your research on me,” Biden said as he slipped off the knot and tossed it over. “You know I’ll do anything for our veterans.”
After everything they do for our country, that sentiment should be echoed by all of us.