Program helps veterans turn dreams into businesses

Last year, more than 100,000 American troops came home from overseas wars. Thousands more will arrive from Iraq as that war ends this year. From many, what may start out as a rousing “Welcome home” by USO volunteers at major airports, or family and friends waiting with smiles and hugs at local airports, can quickly deteriorate for the veteran with no place to live and no work to do.

Since 2009, the unemployment rate for U.S. veterans has doubled. The unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans now stands 20 percent, more than twice the rate for the national civilian population.

A number of factors contribute to this high rate.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans points out that military job skills and training are not always transferable to the civilian work force.

A 2008 RAND Corporation study found that one in five Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans have endured physical (traumatic brain injuries) or psychological (post-traumatic stress disorder or depression) wounds that impair their cognitive abilities. With many jobs today requiring 21st-century skills, these veterans have major obstacles to finding employment.

As National Guard Reserve troops now outnumber active-duty forces, long absences from their jobs may mean employers who might have held their jobs open can no longer do so. Some veterans come home to find their jobs have disappeared as companies have closed in the Great Recession.

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