It seems that when members of the military leave the service, many stories unfold about the difficulties an ex-service member has in getting work or receiving assistance from the Veterans Administration. When you look at the many tragic stories, you wonder about the common thread. What is at the root of veteran struggles to transition from the service into civilian prosperity and what is a good solution?
Myth of the Indestructible Veteran
Certain movies from the Vietnam Era and before often portrayed veterans as fully robust individuals able to deal with any problem that arises. Reality has dispelled that myth many times over. However, the perception may linger and impact perceptions of veterans as less needful of assistance and people who will recover beyond difficulties. Again, while this is true in some cases and situations, it not universally true in the absolute.
People with a Durable Mental Framework
Service members are imbued with a mindset and decision-making process to support a work unit in the most severe circumstances. Destroyed buildings, destroyed shelter, destroyed comrades, destroyed equipment, and destroyed communications and the work must go on to completion. It is a level of perseverance with its derivative thought processes that is cultivated daily in years of service.
No analog exists in civilian life as it is deemed unnecessary in general society. That is where the disconnect begins because the mental framework continues post service leading to an imbalance between a ex-service member’s aura and those with whom they collaborate who naturally accept a different reality. It is not always that way, but when it is, it can be a real problem, for the veteran.
Veteran is a Label
Being called a veteran is an important designation, but at the end of the day it only marks a person in terms of experience. When service ends, a person can make a choice not to live the active duty military way. A person is a person regardless of the clothes they wear or the groups with whom they affiliate. At the end of the day, a person is a person. An ex-service member no longer has the full force of the armed services behind them. They are once again, a person.
Federal Career Placement Service
Some states are exceedingly veteran friendly. So much so, that local career centers commissioned by the state are staffed with ex-service members focused on the placement of veterans into companies that are themselves veteran friendly. That is important and many appropriately applaud such efforts. There is nothing quite like integrating a person who may be a bit out of step with society into a company and seeing to their experience of life as they contribute their qualities to the organization.
Sometimes things go wrong and sometimes it just does not work out. That is a reality. The truth is people who build and operate companies do not have a natural moral obligation to hire and collaborate with veterans. We are all entitled to freedom, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but not employment.
While it is true that private sector employers should have the scope to hire who they really want, there is still the matter of the state level career centers. Those centers deal primarily with private sector employment. What if there was another option?
A Federal Career Center staffed with actual case workers with direct connections to all federal agencies. They can be an effective guide to get a veteran into a suitable job in a number of agencies and a multitude of institutions and organizations receiving significant federal funds. It would be an agency based on the “no person left behind” ethos that will keep with the veteran no matter how many times they may fall off the track.
The difference is that instead of an individual toiling away on usajobs.gov navigating obviously to the real actions that will get them hired, this agency would be staffed with persons that can guide an individual in a manner that would bring their application package into true alignment with the standards of the hiring agency. The relationship would include phone calls, emails and regular contact to improve the case worker’s knowledge of the individual in situations in which the case worker communicates with an agency or third-party on the veteran’s behalf.
Reduced Strain on the VA
The VA has a huge task made larger by the fact that many of the issues dealt with have nothing to do with PTSD or health issues. The VA becomes a melting pot of issues with an individual that had its roots in failure to integrate with society or stay on a financially healthy course. A gainfully employed veteran is one who will need less assistance from the VA which would free up resources for those with chronic conditions stemming from service connected issues. As well, a well employed veteran is likely to have the financial wherewithal to address their own health concerns at the medical practice of their choice rather than in an alternate universe where they are a homeless veteran who needs to be admitted to a VA emergency room with little space for thorough treatment.
Military Contract with Society
Much of this is to say that a service member’s relationship is with society is updated. It is the only job where you are expected to die in the worst case scenario if that resulted in mission success. It is much to ask as life is the most valuable thing that ironically is far less understood the younger a person is when they sign up. Regardless of the reasons why a person signs up, they are aware of the commitment if even on an abstract level at first. A good outcome would certainly be to make the freedom of civilian life even more valuable for that period of risk service members routinely accept.