Veterans don’t need lip service. They need jobs. And so far, we haven’t seen any meaningful action coming from Washington. But a powerful ally is stepping up to fill the void: The Private Sector.
None of us need reminding that we’re in one of the worst economies in decades. More than 15 million Americans are jobless, and veterans are being hit even harder. Young veterans are facing 20% unemployment, a rate that has increased significantly from just 6.1% in 2007.
Veterans like Adam Bryant are being left out in the cold.
Adam deployed for a year to Afghanistan in 2008. While there, he managed million-dollar infrastructure projects, held a security clearance, and led his unit as a gunner on dangerous combat patrols. He also proved himself as an accomplished photographer and photojournalist.
Yet, when he got home, no one would hire him. Adam sent out dozens of resumes only to receive radio silence. The only interview he got was at The Cheesecake Factory where, after describing his military qualifications, he was discounted for lack of experience waiting tables.
Adam is just one of thousands of new veterans struggling to make the leap from military service to the civilian workforce. And still, Congress has failed to deliver.
Tim Geithner has come up short. The White House has yet to go into crisis mode to tackle this issue head on. And why was Wall Street reform a priority while creating jobs isn’t?
While Washington stands idle, the private sector has been revving up. From Microsoft to Walmart to Outback Steakhouse, enlightened companies are stepping up to hire veterans and connect them with the tools needed to succeed in the workforce.
Just today, JCPenney and JA Apparel, the makers of Joseph Abboud, became the latest American companies to help new vets make the transition from combat to career by kicking off a campaign to distribute $1 million in professional attire to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands of vets will now be able to walk into interviews sporting a nice, new suit.
These companies get it. And more seem to be catching on. Unfortunately Washington isn’t.
What have they been focused on instead? Things like postage stamps and college tennis teams – as highlighted last month by Jon Stewart. And, instead of upgrading the new GI Bill to cover vocational training for young vets, Congress checked out early to save their own jobs. And the White House has seemed too concerned with getting Rahm Emanuel a new one in Chicago.
Taking a cue from the private sector, Washington must step up and deliver jobs and employment resources to the veterans’ community. If private companies get it, the White House and Congress must learn, too.
Crossposted at www.IAVA.org.