Jobless veterans say military experience is not valued

Mon Oct 31, 2011 3:24pm EDT
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By Roy Strom

NAPERVILLE, Ill (Reuters) - When Matthew Burrell left the Army after eight years of service, he landed a job as a public relations contractor in Iraq. With a salary of $170,000, he figured military experience had finally paid off.

But five months after returning home to Chicago, 33-year old Burrell is unemployed and said his job search has been strange. Despite having six years experience as a public relations officer in the Army, companies treat him as if he just graduated from college.

"I can tell you for a fact that definitely in my field in public relations and marketing, private sector companies do not value (military experience)," Burrell said.

Burrell feels he is more than qualified for a job in the corporate PR world. But Burrell, along with many of what the Department of Labor says are 235,000 unemployed veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, has run into a frustrating problem.

Many U.S. companies, and sometimes veterans themselves, do not know how to translate military experience into civilian job skills. There is a disconnect between companies demanding a college degree and veterans' giving confusing descriptions of their military experience to civilian employers.


That disconnect has contributed to veterans having an unemployment rate 2.6 percent higher than the general population, according to September's Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment report. As U.S. involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars winds down, lawmakers and organizations of all stripes have launched efforts to help veterans find work.

President Barack Obama this week announced measures, including $120 million in total tax breaks to companies that hire veterans.   Continued...

<p>A U.S. Air Force veteran (R) listens to an employee from Union Pacific Railroad explain openings during a job fair at Tellabs in Naperville, Illinois October 27, 2011. The job fair was open to current and former service men and women and their families. REUTERS/Frank Polich</p>