Every year about 200,000 military service members transition from active duty to civilian life, with most of these valuable members of our communities experiencing significant and, at times, painful life changes.
While some return to their “home of record,” most will relocate to a new place offering meaningful employment or job-related education.
During reintegration, each veteran and their loved ones face unique challenges and circumstances. They need adaptable, customized support in vital areas, such as navigating VA services, education, employment, physical and emotional wellness, financial literacy and housing.
In 2018, the VA issued a report, The Military to Civilian Transition: A Review of Historical, Current, and Future Trends. More than 8,500 veterans, active-duty, National Guard and Reserve members and dependents identified their transition challenges:
- Navigating VA programs, benefits and services 60%
- Finding a job 55%
- Adjusting to civilian culture 41%
- Addressing financial challenges 40%
- Applying military-learned skills to civilian life 39%
A Pew Research Center survey published in September 2019 indicates that 26 percent of veteran respondents found transitioning to civilian life was very or somewhat difficult. That percentage jumped to 48 percent for veterans who served after 9/11.
After years of high veteran unemployment, the tide appears to be turning, at least for finding a job. A Bureau of Labor Statistics report in April 2022 shows that veteran unemployment was 4.4 percent in 2021, compared with 5.3 percent for nonveterans. Unemployment for both white and Black veterans was lower than for their nonveteran counterparts. The picture continues to brighten, with veteran unemployment at 3.7 percent in April 2022, compared with 3.9 percent for the country.
Getting a job is just one challenge. Another challenge is keeping it or using it as a launchpad into a rewarding career. Pre-COVID-19 job attrition for veterans is alarming. Forty-three percent of veterans left their first civilian job within a year, and 80 percent before their second anniversary.
Civilian recruiters are increasingly better at matching a veteran’s former Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) in job placement. However, MOS assignment is driven not only by a service member’s Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) but also by the military’s needs.
In short, a veteran’s former MOS might not reflect current passions or career aspirations. Is there a way to improve job retention?
The National Veterans Transition Services, Inc. (NVTSI), or REBOOT for short, a San Diego nonprofit focused on reintegration, is collaborating with the scientific community to develop and test Job-Set, a smart app providing veterans a chance to be matched with actual jobs they qualify for that they might not otherwise find or consider. Using an artificial intelligence-based algorithm to help a user build a profile based on 600+ attributes, Job-Set finds matches in a database of millions of jobs by capitalizing on O*NET, the Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) program and the National Labor Exchange. Currently in beta testing, Job-Set is free for veteran and military spouse job seekers.
Reintegration delays cause problems. Homelessness, drug addiction, divorce and incarceration are symptoms of a disjointed support system for transitioning veterans. Today roughly 45,000 nonprofits and numerous federal, state and local government agencies offer support. Navigating through this huge network is both confusing and frustrating.
To help navigate the transition process, NVTSI recently transformed DoD’s Managing Your Transition Timeline manual into an app to help service members manage their transition as early as 24 months before their release. The app also connects users directly to participating local veteran service organizations for a warm hand-off.
In its White Paper After the Sea of Goodwill: A Collective Approach to Veteran Reintegration, published in October 2014, the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Office of Reintegration stated:
Written By Kate Karniouchina, Maurice Wilson and Jim Wong
“Now is the time to create a national structure — characterized by functional cooperation, cross-sector collaboration and an integrated network — to establish a no-wrong-door capacity that allows our country to reintegrate effectively veterans and their families as a matter of course.”
With this in mind, NVTSI created a prototype Center for Military Veterans Reintegration (CMVR). Designed to be owned and staffed by the local community, the first CMVR opened in Downey, Calif., in May 2022 as both a physical location and an electronic portal (Eco-Center) with easy access for veterans and their families in greater Los Angeles. The CMVR’s purpose is to spur public-private partnerships to streamline the journey home for veterans and ease the burden on loved ones.