A new tool developed by the private sector aims to broaden assistance for troops and families as they leave the military and transition to civilian life.
The Veteran Employment Transition Roadmap, developed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes and the George W. Bush Institute's Military Service Initiative, was unveiled at a recent Mission Transition summit discussing the way forward for efforts to help service members and their families in the transition.
"Tools like the VET Roadmap, which gathers together best-in-class resources and industry knowledge, are critical to not only smoothing the reintegration process for our veterans and military families, but making sure they have everything they need to continue serving this country," said Eric Eversole, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and president of Hiring our Heroes.
The VET Roadmap broadens the scope of assistance in the transition journey and opens up more links to private and nonprofit groups that can help veterans and their families, said Mike Haynie, executive director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, in an interview after the summit.
While the military services' transition programs cover a piece of the transition for troops, this tool "adds robustness to the existing resources," Haynie said.
It's designed to provide tips and vetted resources for troops as well as family members and others close to the service member in the transition. Future road maps will be created for other military populations, such as spouses, wounded warriors, caregivers, and Guard and reserve members.
The usefulness extends beyond military families, Haynie said. "Few Americans understand what transition is all about. Many entities that are able to support veterans are not engaged because they don't know how to be helpful. ... This also helps those entities figure out how to help the service member," he said.
Examples might include nonprofit groups that provide financial counseling, and those that support the homeless.
The VET Roadmap is one way the private sector is addressing the challenges for the significant numbers of troops who will transition out of the military in the next three to five years.
There should be a shift in the way that veteran employment is addressed in this country, Haynie said, "from a crisis response to an institutionalized focus on the vocational transition of service members."
"We need to act on institutionalizing some of these public-private partnerships," he said, to create "long-term transition pathways."
The efforts of the private sector, working with the public sector, such as DoD, and the Labor and Veterans Affairs departments as well as the Small Business Administration, "have made a significant impact on the vocational situation of veterans," Haynie said. He noted that the unemployment rate for veterans ages 18 to 24 has gone from 21.1 percent in 2009 to 18.2 in 2014; and for the 25-34 age group, from 11.1 percent in 2009 to 7.7 percent in 2014.
One effort of Hiring Our Heroes and Capital One — the Hiring 500,000 Heroes campaign — has resulted in more than 2,000 large and small businesses hiring more than 500,000 veterans and military spouses as of mid-June, chamber officials said. Information was not available on how many spouses were in that group.
Military spouses are an important part of the employment and transition discussion, officials said. "Meaningful employment is vital for the well-being of a family. Particularly during transition, it's going to create stability," said Amy Bontrager, an Army wife who is Blue Star Careers program manager for Blue Star Families.
That stability is needed as the family addresses new questions of finances, changes in insurance, and cuts to the Basic Allowance for Housing, for example. And during military service, as couples discuss their future in the military, she said, "it's a lot easier to say, 'Let's stay in and serve our country,' when the spouse has been able to find meaningful employment."
Haynie also emphasized the need for DoD to share more specifics about the number of people leaving the service and when, and more demographic information about them.
The discussion about veteran employment has to move from the national level to the local and regional level, Haynie said. That's where it matters most, he said, because that's where the jobs are, and other resources such as social services.
Deloitte Consulting has been researching the demographics of veteran employment, looking at areas with the highest levels of veteran unemployment, down to the county level. Researchers can look at demographics such as gender, education level, and ethnicity.
Looking at this from the local perspective "allows us to target resources and programs where there's the greatest need," said Mark Goulart of Deloitte Consulting.
The data also can be used to target opportunities for veterans, he said. For example, they've looked at veterans' employment trends and available job opportunities. An industry with a high growth rate is health services, he said, but it's an industry with a small number of veterans, while the federal job sector has the lowest growth rate but the greatest number of veterans.
The Bush Institute's Military Service Initiative is helping Americans better understand its veterans, more effectively support veterans, and take advantage of opportunities to hire veterans, said former President George W. Bush, who spoke at the summit.
Among other things, they've conducted research , along with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, to determine who the veterans are, and what they need, Bush said. They're also studying the effectiveness of non-governmental organizations whose mission is at least partly related to serving veterans.
"America's veterans have taken on the toughest tasks imaginable. Now it's our turn to continue to help," Bush said.