Work experience is the most important part of your resume, so why would previous employment prevent someone from being hired -especially if the new position was less dangerous or stressful than the work the applicant had already completed?

This is just the situation faced by many unemployed veterans, who are increasingly unable to find work. While it is illegal for companies to discriminate against veterans in the hiring process, veteran’s advocates fear that employers automatically equate time spent in military service with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, and are afraid to make a hire. In reality, not all – or even most –veterans return from overseas with emotional problems. Furthermore, PTSD does not necessarily prevent an individual from working.

This discrimination isn’t limited to small misinformed business owners, some veterans report being passed over for positions in government, including being told in 2010 that a company did not want  “disabled veterans and the problems that come with them.” This was at the Federal hiring level. Unemployment among veterans decreased slightly in 2013 from 9.9 percent to 9 percent, but still remains higher than unemployment among civilians.

Without employment, the cycle of poverty begins. Besides supplying income, working can help a veteran return socially and psychologically to civilian life, yet often this opportunity is denied to the men and women with military backgrounds.  The never helpful but often – heard advice thrown at people experiencing homelessness is to  “get a job.” For those that are physically and mentally able to work, this advice is increasingly frustrating. Somehow, we deem these individuals qualified to enter combat internationally, but not to work in an office.

The justness of this discrimination is overwhelming, but luckily veterans are not a population who give up easily. Groups for veterans are leading some impressive advocacy work, including a military campaign aimed at employers. One organization I’ve raved about in past posts is The Mission Continues, a Missouri based group that deploys post 9/11 veterans to do more than just desk jobs, connecting them with service projects in their home communities. This structure both utilizes a veteran’s existing skill set and creates leadership opportunities for returning veterans.

Veteran unemployment contributes directly to veteran homeless, and no person who has served our country should return home to find themselves with nowhere to go. Opportunities to use their skills in new settings can change the cycle of homelessness and poverty among veterans, but only if employers can step away from fear and stigma.

Author Jasmine Arnold

Jasmine Arnold works at the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center, a shelter for Baltimorians experiencing homelessness. She is a Rhode Islander relocated to Baltimore by way of Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, where she studied Sociology and Economics. Moving between states sparked an interest in comparing not only the local charms of each new place, but in understanding how cities tackle difficult social issues.

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