Veterans need more than a day – they need a career

Valley Forum


By Thomas A. Kennedy

America is home to 21.2 million veterans – men and women who were willing to risk their lives for our country.

Unfortunately, many of these veterans face a daunting personal battle here at home: finding work. According to the labor department, more than 700,000 U.S. veterans are currently unemployed. This simply isn’t acceptable. Our veterans have earned the opportunity to earn a living and take part in the very society they fought to defend.

The most effective way to help them succeed in post-military life is through targeted efforts to extend educational opportunity.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, competition for jobs has become fierce. Positions that once required a high school degree or less are being filled by college-educated applicants. This development presents a particular challenge for former soldiers, airmen, and sailors, many of whom enlisted without much education or civilian experience.

Moreover, unemployed vets who find work typically take 43 weeks to land a job.

Joblessness is stressful for all who have experienced it. However, many veterans face additional obstacles. At least 3 million were wounded in battle and still suffer from some form of disability.

Among those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, about 20 percent are living with post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, and one in three cope with a serious psychological trauma.

All these statistics are troubling, and they illustrate why Americans must commit to making sure veterans have the tools they need to build successful post-military lives.

The best place to start is by broadening educational opportunity for our veterans. Indeed, education is often the determining factor in whether or not a veteran is able to thrive after returning to civilian life.

One initiative has already made important progress in this respect. At the beginning of this academic year, 250 community colleges and universities committed to implementing best practices established by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Education and more than 100 educational experts. These “8 Keys to Success” help connect veterans with academic, career, and financial help, and surround them with a community of students and fellow veterans who can encourage them as they further their education.

For similar efforts to grow in number and effectiveness, more Americans need to get involved with private initiatives like Student Veterans of America and the Wounded Warrior Project. These two groups enable soldiers to draw on the skills they have already developed through military service, and apply them to their post-military careers.

We should always welcome opportunities to show our appreciation for those veterans who risked everything for our safety and security. But these brave men and women need more than our appreciation; they need our help. And, more specifically, they need more opportunities to arm themselves with the skills to create a prosperous, fulfilling life.

• • •

Thomas A. Kennedy is the executive vice president and chief operating officer at Raytheon. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1977 to 1983.

  • Fred Allebach

    Everybody deserves an opportunity to work; we’re all citizens here; a healthy society includes all it’s components. The same arguments advanced here can be applied to any category of disadvantaged citizens. And so I agree, we need more GI bill education type programs, more infrastructure investment, more scientific research investment, more safety net movement. leaving the disadvantaged hung out to dry, when we are supposed to be on the same team, is immoral. The above mentioned type of helpful policies come from the federal level. And who is it that is preventing this type of spending and investment?

    How about a few less missiles and destroyers etc to cover the cost of taking care of the vets and the rest of the disadvantaged? The military budget is so obscenely bloated there has to be money there to switch over to veterans and everybody else. Let’s get our priorities straight; veterans issues are just one example of how things are out of whack. When we had a war on credit that is exactly equal to how much we are in the hole now, maybe the suits ought to think twice before playing world policeman and then not covering the collateral damage at home.

    • Phineas Worthington

      You don’t help create more opportunities for the general population or a small sector of veterans in a recessed economy by raising taxes, increasing regulations on production or flat out standing in the way of it, nationalizing the mortgage market, and nationalizing 20% of the economy under the ACA. This is how you create the Total State and we already know how that turns out from recent history.

      • Fred Allebach

        This all depends on whether European social democracies can be seen as successful models. Many people see them this way. US citizens even, see the New Deal, Great Society and the ACA as good things as well. Pure ideological prescriptions tend to be all or nothing. I think I have a legitimate thread of US political perspective, not communist or socialist, home grown, USA. I don’t think I have the whole story, but in an argument, people tend to be positional.

        • Phineas Worthington

          Is this the same Europe that had their butts saved by the US military more than once? Is this the same Europe that has every country in economic doldrums save Germany who refuses to bail out the others?

  • Phineas Worthington

    I emphatically agree with the sentiments of the writer. Though rather than further burden taxpayers with new programs, just take away some of the excessive burdens put upon the productive private sector to facilitate more risk taking and private sector job creation. Able veterans deserve something more than just a handout, they deserve the dynamic, productive free labor capitalist economy that they fought for.

    • Fred Allebach

      I guess you and me are just like two different broken records that always skip in the same spots.

      • Phineas Worthington

        So you are saying you advocate the opposite of individual rights, free trade, and capitalism, so sad.

        • Fred Allebach

          I’d say, from noticing the consistency of yours and my points over time, that we tend to fall in stereotyped, predictable ranges, like broken records. And usually you are pretty reasonable, so to somehow construe that I support Hitler is not worthy of you.

          • Phineas Worthington

            Never wrote that Fred. Try focusing on what I write, not what you infer. There are many degrees of state managed economies. And there are some very ominous parallels of us to Weimar that many see but avert their eyes to.

          • Fred Allebach

            Phineas, the whole thrust of what I’ve been saying to you here is that we are both like ideological broken records, skip, skip, skip, in exactly the same place. Nobody can dance to that. Primary assumptions do matter, as they define all that follows, but the map is not the territory and having this sort of false debate of individual vs. community is, absurd.

          • Phineas Worthington

            If you think its absurd, then stop. I will continue to promote my values until I can no longer do so.

          • Fred Allebach

            I’ve tried to engage you on some territory where we would each step back from our habitual views, but you never took the offer; I guess there is no bridge to you.

          • Phineas Worthington

            I’m happy to engage, why else would I be here? Answer me one of the two simple, serious questions that I asked Tom on another article if you’ll please.

            Do individuals own their own life by right by their nature?

            Or does the state/collective have a prior claim on the life or any portion of the life of the individual?

            I say the former, you often imply and say explicitly the latter. Our law and our whole society is founded on the premise of the former. This fact seems lost on a fair majority now so you’re surely in better company than I am.

            Yes, its a cc, but it cuts right to the fundamental point of our metaphysical outlooks. We basically cannot agree that individuals should be forced to interact, I am sorry. Freedom is fundamental and you seem to place it wrongly in your hierarchy of values. At least in your political ideas. The oddity is that though you and many others hold these values in your head, you often practice far better values in your life. Working, supporting yourselves and your families, trying to live a moral life. But then supporting ideas that are against you in the political realm. I like to point this out and I am doing the best that I can to not personally denunciate nor inflame people because I would rather persuade. Its just that socialist sacred cow is probably my favorite meat to eat! Happy Holidays!

          • Fred Allebach

            Alright! To answer your question, I think we have a case of both. A person is clearly an individual and indelibly a member of society at the same time. And, the collective certainly has prior claims, that individuals will not cause harm to other individuals, putting mercury in the stream out back for example. Complete freedom can’t work as people do too many bone-headed things. I’d say we have been dominated by collectives for the bulk of our evolution and an individual trajectory has emerged that has become stronger, particularly when paired with economic well-being. I’d say that the Western world has some serious issues now, as we have developed this great individual space, which i enjoy, but we also have major collective problems. And herding cats is an ineffective way to deal with issues, the scale of which need a real collective approach. In a way, the strong development of the individual is counter-productive to operating as the social species we are.

          • Phineas Worthington

            I do appreciate your time and thoughts Fred. You at least are trying to be polite and respectful and I thank you for that. I’ll try to do the same.

            We just disagree on this most important fundamental of the concepts of rights as inalienable. In my view, you have lost track of the fundamental value of self-ownership as an inalienable right. It sounds like you share the view with a majority that freedom is no longer a fundamental value.

            One cannot be free and slave simultaneously. We already fought a very unnecessary, bloody war to resolve that open contradiction. Reread the D of I again and again. Then read the unedited version too. Then read the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Then keep reading. The language of our founding is quite clear on the nature of rights as specific to individuals and they precede the creation of all law. We’ll chat more I’m sure. Cheers!

          • Fred Allebach

            Yes,, the question of rights is a juicy issue. I see there are no inalienable rights in nature and humans are not divorced from nature. It is not a ‘right’ to simply exist, nobody can help it. we’re just here. If the D of I et al presumably has a clear cut message, why are people still so at odds over what constitutes the critical emphasis? There’s a lot going on to discuss but one thing I’ll say, these documents are not etched in stone and for my money, are open to interpretation, evolution and change with the times. And for freedom, this is not an abstract value but a property of who i am, what I already have, not deriving from a document; no one can take away my freedom to engage what I will.

          • Phineas Worthington

            That rights precede all law is fundamental. That you don’t see it may be due to your ideology and the way you see the world through that lens.

            How can you determine that government has reached too far without any reference to the objective principles of our law?

          • Fred Allebach

            It’s obvious that both of us are heavily colored by ideology, so it is easy for each of us to see where the other has patterned responses. I think one Ground Hog Day issue here might be of Constitutional literalism vs. looking at human society from a relative historical and anthropological view. That there is any law at all presupposes that there is a collective ground. There’s always going to be tensions between cultural cross-currents and as long as things get presented as ideological absolute positions, we’re checkmated. Obviously nobody respects law they don’t agree with, like the oyster guy.

          • Phineas Worthington

            Every society at every point in history has had sanctions against certain offenses like murder, rape, stealing, fraud, and the like. Therein lies the origin of natural rights, our universal values as individuals. And the sanctions against murder are quite absolute to be sure, as they should be. Yes, I am absolutist on such matters.

            In all matters of law, we start with black and white issues, then we move to more derivative, difficult issues. The issues around Veterans assistance and public land use rights are very derivative issues that are made more easy to evaluate with references to our first principles of individual rights. I hope you will learn to value them more.