Writing in The Washington Times, Oliver North quotes a representative of the Disabled American Veterans about high unemployment among veterans of the Iraq war. North thought initially that he was talking about those who had been wounded, but the DAV rep disabused him: “You don’t have to have been wounded in action to be ‘unemployable.’ Just to have served in this war makes it tougher to get a job.”
North goes on to tell about a recent experience on an airline flight. His seatmate, a corporate CEO, asked if “all the troops coming back from over there were ‘screwed up,'” and went on to cite a study alleging that more than a third of those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan needed psychological treatment.” (There is apparently an AMA study that cites a number of 35 percent.)
Seems to me that when members of a profession publish studies showing an increased need for the services of that profession, one should be a little cautious in accepting the conclusions…just as you should assume your dog is not totally disinterested if he shows a preference for T-bone steak for your dinner choice. But whatever the methodology and threshold used for the study…is it really likely that the need for “psychological treatment” among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is greater than among veterans of, say, D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, and Iwo Jima? And yet clearly, history has shown that large numbers of the latter category have done very well in their careers.
Prejudice against War on Terror veterans seems to be having an impact. North cites an unemployment rate among returning veterans of 15.6 percent–more than 3 times the national average. Part of this may just be due to transition timing–but pretty clearly, that’s not the only factor at work.
Businesses and other organizations that don’t hire Iraq and Afghanistan vets are not only behaving in an antisocial manner, they are missing a real opportunity. Would you rather just have another group of people directly off the educational conveyor belt, and often with astounding attitudes of entitlement…or would you rather leaven your employee population with people who have had experience in fulfilling some very serious responsibilities? See my post here for more discussion of the capabilities that War on Terror veterans can bring to an organization. Also see the government web site, Hire Vets First.
American business needs to be doing a lot more in this area. Talent is critical in any organization, and astute executives will look for it in non-obvious places, as well as among the usual candidates.