Returning veterans want more than thanks - they want to work

On Veterans Day, we thank living veterans for their military service to our country and remember the sacrifices of the fallen. But veterans of war are still returning home every day to their families—often with physical and emotional scars. What many of them want more than anything is to have their lives back, and that includes their jobs.

This is not a trivial matter. Some 130,000 veterans re-enter civilian life every year, and the hard skills that they learned in the military may not translate to civilian life, where the soft skills of negotiation and quiet time spent on-task are valued.

Employers wishing to hire veterans might consider “skills translation” to help returning vets understand how their military training can be repurposed for civilian jobs.

The good news is that military training produces an individual more focused on health, teamwork, and procedure than civilian counterparts, which often translates into a more disciplined and focused employee, who shows up on time and works hard.

The disconnect may be in the resume and interview stage. Vets may not know how to describe their training in ways that translate into a civilian job. Surprisingly, vets without college degrees get training to help transition to civilian life, but officers with degrees may not be able to describe what they did day-to-day that makes sense to a hiring official.

Gretchen Van Vlymen, vice president at Chicago-based HR consulting firm StratEx, told Bloomberg BNA that many veterans might be shunted into “blue-collar” positions even though they are qualified for white-collar jobs. She stressed veterans ’ soft skills such as “ability to work in a team, leadership, focus, accountability, and an ability to work through processes.”

 “Employers should offer veterans on-the-job training and certification opportunities to help make them feel more comfortable and empowered to succeed in their new role,” said Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer at iCIMS, a talent acquisition software provider in Matawan, N.J. She also suggested giving veterans opportunities to mentor colleagues who were never in the military.


USSERA Protects Veterans' Jobs

But there is more to hiring or re-hiring returning veterans than simple patriotism or even hiring good candidates. The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 provides job and benefit protections for employees who take leaves of absence to fulfill military obligations. Employers must reemploy these soldiers upon their return from military service if they provided proper notice of leave and properly applied for reemployment. Employers are prohibited under USERRA from discriminating or retaliating against employees or applicants based on their military service or intent to join one of the uniformed services. Employers that violate USERRA provisions can be penalized, including compensating employees for losses of wages or other benefits.

Also under USERRA, employers must help returning veterans , including injured or disabled soldiers, become qualified for the jobs that they would have attained if they hadn't served in the military. If veterans can't become qualified for the positions that they would have attained, employers must make reasonable efforts to employ them in positions with equivalent seniority, status, and pay.


Tax Credits for Employers

But in addition to bringing back a returning employee or hiring a skilled and disciplined new one, employers who hire veterans may qualify for tax credits from the government. Employers who hire veterans who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment may qualify for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). The tax benefits range from $1,200 to $9,600, depending on the hire.

In addition, the Returning Heroes Tax Credit and the Wounded Warrior Tax Credit have both been extended through 2019, and some states also offer tax incentives for employers that hire veterans.

So, bottom line, returning veterans make great employees, and there are many reasons to recruit and retain them—including these, collected by Small Business Trends:

1. Veterans are goal-oriented.

2. Veterans are trained leaders.

3. Veterans take responsibility seriously.

4. Veterans know how to make decisions.

5. Veterans speak their minds.

6. Veterans work well independently.

7. Veterans have a great work ethic.

8. Veterans can help you organize.

9. Veterans receive education assistance.

10. Veterans know technology.

11. Veterans understand globalization.

12. Veterans understand health and safety.

13. Hiring a veteran saves you money.

14. Hiring a veteran means tax incentives.

15. Veterans don’t give up.

Additional best practices for hiring veterans in the workplace are available at Vets 4 Warriors. Get them out and put them to work!