Words by Bridget Foster.
It’s a documented fact that as a group, veterans tend to have a lower unemployment rate than non-veterans. However, this is not the case when it comes to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the October 2013 (most recent available) rate of unemployment for this population was a whopping 10%, compared to the national rate of only 7.3%. That 10% is equal to 246,000 individuals seeking employment! Considering the sacrifice these men and women made for this country, this is unacceptable.
Why are so many young vets unable to find work? Many factors have been identified, including service-related disabilities, difficulty applying military training and skills to civilian job requirements, lack of civilian work experience and the educational level of most Iraq/Afghanistan war vets.
Many of these young men and women enlisted right out of (or shortly after) high school and according to the BLS, in the general population, the unemployment rate is higher for those who only have a high school diploma. On the other hand, some of these vets have college credits but for various reasons, have been unable to complete a degree program.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is supposed to help veterans and active duty members gain access to higher education and training, but it has not had the intended impact.
To address the continued high unemployment and low college graduation rates particularly among this group of veterans, Senators Tim Kaine and Saxby Chambliss introduced the SERVE bill. The overall goal of SERVE is to improve the quality of education programs for active duty and veteran servicemembers, as well as assist them with the transition to civilian employment.
SERVE hopes to accomplish this goal in several ways:
- Ensure that servicemembers receive a quality education by raising the minimum standards for educational institutions and programs that accept VA or DOD educational benefits to be consistent with other federal tuition assistance programs.
- Require these institutions to fully disclose graduation rates, withdrawal policies, program costs, etc. Reliable data about veteran graduation rates has been difficult to find as no one tracked the retention and graduation rate of veterans attending school under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. (NOTE: The VA, DOD and Department of Education are now under executive order by the Obama Administration to collect this data).
- Require the provision of or access to academic and/or career counseling designed to improve retention and graduation success as well as preparation for civilian careers. Some institutions, such as the University of Arizona, have courses specifically designed to help veterans make the transition from military life to college life as well as how to apply their military skills to the civilian world.
- Create pilot programs for states to develop “best practices” to ensure that employment training programs are included in the offerings under the Post-9/11 GI Bill program.
What is your reaction to this new bill? Will it really help?