SUCCESSFULLY TRANSITIONING FROM THE ARMED FORCES INTO THE WORKFORCE
By Maurice Wilson, MCPO, USN (ret) President/Executive Director,
National Veterans Transition Services, Inc. aka REBOOT
In big cities and small towns, every November people line the streets to watch parades, as a way to remember the men and women who have served our country, in peace and in war. As a nation, we love a parade, always quick to give a reverent cheerwhen the military band strikes one of John Philip Sousa’s patriotic marches. One and all, we take pride in our military.
The Silent Parade. Attracting much less attention, there has been a silent parade every day – with no pomp and pageantry – the marchers comprised of roughly 250,000 transitioning military men and women every year who are released from active duty. More obscure are older veterans, some going back to the Vietnam War, still seeking the peace they fought valiantly to help America protect. There is no music but a cacophony, a harsh mixture of discordant notes: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, Homelessness, Unemployment, Divorce, Substance Abuse, Incarceration, and the saddest note, Suicide.
Why Do Problems Persist in Reintegration? It’s not that America doesn’t care, because we do. Reintegration is a hairy problem. Our President has requested a FY2017 budget of $182.3 billion for the Veterans Administration.
Other government agencies also dedicate portions of their budgets to support veterans. In addition, there are over 45,000 nonprofit Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs), staffed mostly by volunteers – veterans, military spouses and other caring folks – all trumpeting different problems and proposed solutions. Meanwhile, the VA and other government agencies are revamping their programs to better serve transitioning service members. As a nation, westruggle to find solutions that bring our veterans peace they deserve. According to a Congressional Joint Economic Committee study dated November 2015, young veterans aged 18 to 24 face significantly higher rates of unemployment, poverty and homelessness (16.2%) than their similarly aged non-veteran peers (12.5%). In fact, the homeless rate among young veterans is more than double the rate among non-veterans the same age.
How Should We Measure the Success of Reintegration? That’s what our team at the National Veterans Reintegration Services, Inc. (aka REBOOT) has focused on for the past seven years. At REBOOT, we are a mixture of veterans and business executives. For us, success begins with Metrics, knowing what we’re shooting for. Take veteran employment, especially for post 9/11 veterans who suffer the highest unemployment. Although job placement is critical to reduce unemployment, what is equally if not more important is job retention, for both employee and employer. Problems caused by PTSD, TBI and a host of war-related maladies notwithstanding, veteran job retention is far worse than for their non-veteran counterparts.
And the period of unemployment following release from active duty is lengthening. Why?
Fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan doesn’t help a young person acclimate to a civilian job, especially if she or he joined the military straight from high school or college. Because these veterans do not qualify for Social Security Unemployment Insurance, DoD’s Unemployment Compensation for Ex-service members (UCX Program) hasexceeded $1 billion annually.
Should We Focus on Cheaper Prevention Costs? At REBOOT’s Centers for Military and Veteran Reintegration, we not only help transitioning military and veterans with resume writing and interviewing skills but, as funding allows, invite them to attend our free 3-week REBOOT Workshop™. Our mantra is RELEARN, REBUILD, REBRAND.
We devote one week to each, with the curriculum based on the science of helping people change their psycho-socialbehaviors. For the past seven years, our placement rate of graduates (into gainful employment or post-secondary education) has been 97%, and our second-year retention rate is 93%. REBOOT co-founders Ronne Froman (Rear Admiral, USN retired) and Maurice Wilson (Master Chief Petty Officer, USN retired) have been recognized by the White House as Champions of Change. And we work closely with a host of other caregivers and partners in each community.
Who Are the Players in the Social Enterprise? It’s all of us in America. While it sounds almost trite to say that it takes a village, it does take a village, or a community of caregivers and willing partners. It took us a few years at
REBOOT to realize that we are part of a larger Social Enterprise that caters to the needs of each single veteran.
In addition to our dedicated volunteers and staff at REBOOT, we have a symbiotic relationship with our sister nonprofits, providing what we each do best. And partnering with us are funding institutions – individual donors, institutional philanthropies, academia and other research organizations, VA and other government agencies, and most of all, prospective employers – together we constitute a Veteran’s Ecosystem. It’s based on a pull system wherein prospective employers who are interested in hiring our country’s veterans are able to capitalize on our increasing pool of Veterans Ready for Hire. If you are still on active duty but preparing for your transition, or already a veteran, come to our monthly Muster. Finally, 2 of 3 new jobs in the country have been created by small businesses in the last twenty years, you are a critical part of a Veteran’s Ecosystem.
We have all heard or read about returning veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan and the psychological and physical problems they face from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury to substance dependency and
alienation from their families.
NVTSI provides returning military personnel with the tools and retraining they need to return to civilian life as productive, acclimated, and effective individuals capable of attaining success and thriving in their new lives.
War veterans return from a life of vigilance safeguarding our everyday existence, and are unable to find the life they left behind. Their culture: the military culture is out of place and at odds with the job market. Society is
foreign, their families are strangers, they do not know what they want to do with their new lives – they are out of sync with what used to be home. For many, societal reintegration is out of reach without help.
The government doesa great job introducing separating military personnel to the job search and veteran’s benefits, but the community has to help returning service people reintegrate, making the leap to a new independent mindset, reversing the boot camp experience that has given them the skills and mentality they need to survive in a combat-driven environment.
To learn more about the REBOOT Workshop™ , visit us at www.rebootworkshop.vet