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Gary Varvel l Indianapolis Star

Help to repay a debt

Parades, speeches, flags and bunting are nice. But often, what a military veteran who’s come home needs and deserves most of all is to get a job.

Recent national campaigns to help soldiers, Marines and sailors re-enter the world of civilian employment seem to have had some success. Across the country, the unemployment rate for those who served pre-9/11 is lower than overall unemployment.

But veterans of the post-9/11 wars have not fared so well. In Indiana, where general unemployment is above the national average to begin with – it’s 8.1 percent in Indiana, versus 7.2 percent nationally – 12.5 percent of military veterans of the Iraq-Afghanistan era are jobless. Among the youngest veterans, it’s even higher: 15.5 percent for 18-24-year-olds and 15.8 percent for 25-to-34-year-olds.

This is not only shameful and unacceptable, but totally unnecessary. (For additional ways to help veterans, read Chad Storlie’s piece on the Opinion page.)

What employers who pass up chances to hire veterans may not know, first of all, is that they’re also passing up tax credits.

“They’re pretty significant,” said Joe Frank, a spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. The tax credit for a single hire can be as much as $9,600, depending on how long the veteran has been unemployed and whether his or her family has been receiving public assistance.

But credits are just the cherries.

The sundaes are the veterans, who should be naturally competitive for a wide range of jobs.

To begin with, an honorably discharged military veteran has already been thoroughly vetted, if you will. People with serious criminal records, drug problems or other anti-social behavior rarely get taken or kept by the armed forces.

Then there are the skills they acquire while on the job for Uncle Sam.

“In many cases,” Frank says, “they don’t require further education.”

For instance, those who drove bulky military vehicles might easily master a truck-driving job. “That skill can transfer easily to civilian life.”

And veterans who have been “managers” of others during the challenges of war can be excellent candidates for management jobs back home.

Those who’ve served their country are “extremely loyal, they’re disciplined,” Frank says. “Showing up for work on time, dressing appropriately – veterans just don’t have those issues.”

So why are so many younger veterans still unemployed?

“The issue is just getting reacquainted with civilian life,” Frank said. “Some folks don’t know that their skills will transfer. They’re kind of overwhelmed about how to get back into civilian jobs and society.”

For many veterans, and for the employers who grasp their value, the challenge may simply be one of connecting.

Workforce Development can help with that. Veterans can go to and click “I am a job seeker.” Employers can go to the same page and click “I am an employer.”

The site will direct veterans to their local WorkOne Center and a veterans’ representative, who can help with counseling, training and job options and connect vets with potential employers.

If you are a veteran without a job, never despair. There is a cornucopia of help available. Go for it.

The workplace needs what you have to offer. And you’ve earned more than a “thank you” by your service.