All of this said, you may have heard the political debates or even had a casual conversation with someone about veteran poverty and unemployment. In a piece for Psychology Today by Romeo Vitelli Ph.D, the author reported that while the unemployment rate was decreasing for veterans, the next few years could present some difficult challenges and potential setbacks in this area. The article ended with this sobering statement:
Even though veteran homelessness may be on the decline, at least according to recent statistics, the failure of recent legislative initiatives to improve veteran benefits may well see a reversal of this trend, as more veterans find themselves facing financial hardship. Whether or not the current administration is willing to address this remains to be seen.
To do our part in preventing this backslide, it will require more than a “thank you” and a handshake. It will require investment. Some people do that by supporting veteran-run businesses, but as an entrepreneur yourself, the ability to contribute to the veteran community is in your hands as well. Take a look at how you may be able to help support veterans.
The unfortunate truth is that it can be very hard for some veterans to transition back into civilian life. Homelessness primarily affects middle-aged veterans, with the largest group of homeless people post-military being between the ages of 31 and 50. While the overall percentage of homeless U.S. veterans seems small, there are approximately 13,000 homeless vets.
Many of these problems have emerged due to the mental health struggles of veterans. Veterans can struggle to transition away from a constant state of alert necessary for combat, as well as the strict, authoritarian worldview they may adopt while serving. In addition to this, veterans are more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder because of what they’ve seen in war. These stresses and their resulting struggles have led to a negative stigma against veterans.
At the end of the day, some people with mental health problems are unable to hold down real jobs, and veterans are heavily affected by this. It leads to post-service homelessness and, sometimes, a learned helplessness. This is where you can help.
There are two important aspects to creating an inclusive environment for veterans. The first comes in the form of recognition, and the second comes in the form of employment. Both are situational, but both are important.
Recognition is important because it ends silence on key issues regarding veteran welfare. If you stay quiet on veteran issues or don’t bring attention to what veterans have done for our country, then they will go unnoticed and underappreciated. And when they go unnoticed, people don’t take action to help them or empathize with post-service struggles. As statesman Haile Selassie once said:
Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.
Hire veterans when you are able. Take a cue from the United States Postal Service, which gives preference to post-military applicants, and thus has hired over 113,000 veterans. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it will work in your favor. No matter your industry, you’ll find highly qualified veterans for just about any occupation. As Fast Company points out, their leadership capabilities, ability to perform with diverse groups of people, and effective teamwork skills, make them ideal candidates.
Additionally, you being their employer means that you have an opportunity to help them transition into corporate America. You can do this by being straightforward with them and asking them what their personal employment goals are. Don’t overpromise, but do what you can to help them get where they’re going, even if your job is a temporary stop for them. It’s a much more psychological task than you may be accustomed to, but it’s the right thing to do. But there are more specific ways in which you can make your help substantial.
Start with recognizing veterans on your website and in your marketing. Offer military discounts, spread awareness through your social media accounts of local military heroes, and consider sponsoring a military family. Additionally, there are some great veteran charities you can donate to, though you should always do background research to ensure they are credible and will actually improve the welfare of veterans.
Some of the highest-ranked Veteran charities include The Gary Sinise Foundation, the Semper Fi Fund, and the Freedom Service Dogs of America:
But it goes beyond just supporting charity. Many veterans end up becoming entrepreneurs using the cooperative leadership tools they are given during their service. This is an opportunity for you to cooperate with them. Combining forces with veteran-run companies and stocking your shelves with veteran-owned brands is a good gesture. Invite them to be a part of nonprofit group efforts in your local community. Listen to their opinions on local business issues and offer input as well. And if they create products that fit your niche, offer to sell them in your storefront (should you work in retail).
The next time you meet a veteran in need, consider telling him that you’re hiring, and see what you can do. You never know who you may be able to help just by putting it out there. Right now, this is how you can best serve your country.
By Noah Rue
Noah Rue is a writer, a digital nomad, an ESL teacher, and an all around good dude, if he doesn’t say so himself.