Finding a Job


In 2019, Daniel Crabtree began to plan for civilian life after 16 years of military service. A petty officer second class, Crabtree had served across the globe, most recently in human resources positions looking after navy staffing needs.

Not only was 40-year-old Crabtree well-experienced in the HR arena, he’d also earned a master’s degree while in the service. The challenge for Crabtree was translating those skills (and that degree) into the civilian marketplace.

“I’d never really applied for a job or written a résumé or negotiated a salary,” Crabtree said. “I had a lot to offer companies, but no idea how to market myself to them.”

Enter Hire Heroes USA, an employment assistance organization that helps service members and veterans transition into the civilian workforce. Six months after starting with Hire Heroes, Crabtree found a job in HR with CFI, a leading trucking company. “So many veterans wind up homeless or unemployed because they didn’t know how to make the shift into civilian life,” says Crabtree. “Hire Heroes was an essential component of my success.”

Veterans like Crabtree exemplify the struggles of many former servicemen navigating the transition to life after the military. The key challenge facing so many is employment. As I’ve seen time again: if a veteran starts their post-military chapter with a high-quality job, other hurdles are far more surmountable. As Dr. Peter Kramer, professor of clinical psychiatry at Brown University has discussed in his research into veteran suicide, “there is no substitute for what jobs offer in the way of structure, support and meaning.”

Yet, tragically, veterans are consistently undervalued in the civilian workforce. Despite their unparalleled training, work ethic and team mentality, far too many struggle to secure meaningful employment. According to The Veterans Metrics Initiative (TVMI) from Penn State, 61% of veterans are either unemployed or underemployed — even now when the US labor market is in dire need of talent.

Part of the problem here is perception: veteran leadership abilities are often undervalued by employers, while their training, even when clearly applicable, is not always recognized. For example, due to nonsensical licensure requirements in 10 states and territories, a medic who saved lives in the battlefield must start over with new and redundant medical training just to ride in the back of an ambulance as an EMT. Former military truckers also face retraining issues owing to variances between civilian and military truck licensing requirements; a crucial gap at a time of severe trucker shortages.  

There are, however, a handful of organizations working hard to reverse this problem. This month, the Call of Duty Endowment — which funds organizations like Hire Heroes USA — achieved its long-term goal of helping 100,000 veterans get back to work in high quality civilian jobs. For perspective, this is more than half the size of the entire active duty Marine Corps.

Since its inception, the Call of Duty Endowment has achieved an estimated $5.6 billion in economic value for US and UK veterans. We place veterans in jobs with starting salaries that are almost double the national average ($64,000/year), which represents a major contribution to the US economy. Our efforts are also efficient, costing roughly one-tenth the placement expenditures ($547) of the US Department of Labor’s efforts.

My work with The Endowment over the past decade has taught me three key lessons about setting veterans up for success. First, assisting veterans with resume writing and preparing for job interviews is crucial. TVMI data reveals that veterans are two to three times more likely to find a job if they worked on these areas with a mentor or coach.

Second, the federal government must prioritize and allocate sufficient funding to veteran employment initiatives. Despite proven impact, these services are the lowest funded of any major veteran program — at less than one-tenth of 1% of the US government’s approximately $300 billion veteran spend. A mere doubling of this allocation would have life-changing benefits.

Lastly, employers need to understand that they will benefit from the skills and experiences of veterans. We can change the current disconnect through the kind of employer education that the Endowment supports while also helping veterans better communicate the value of their military experience and skills.

I offer these lessons with the goal of getting another 100,000 veterans back to work in high quality jobs. Doing so will not only strengthen our workforce — it will strengthen our country.


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