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Veterans Are "Strategic Assets" to Illinois Communities

PHOTO: As veterans are honored for their service on Veterans Day, Illinois continues its efforts to help them utilize their military experience as they connect with employers. Photo credit: Rich Mullins/Morguefile.
PHOTO: As veterans are honored for their service on Veterans Day, Illinois continues its efforts to help them utilize their military experience as they connect with employers. Photo credit: Rich Mullins/Morguefile.

November 11, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Despite being well-educated and specially trained, many Illinois veterans struggle to find work in the civilian world.

Rodrigo Garcia, director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, says the post-9/11 generation of vets faces greater challenges in finding employment compared to their non-veteran peers. He says the state is "educating" companies about the versatile skills veterans offer in the workplace.

"By far the vast majority of military veterans are strategic assets to our community," says Garcia. "In working with employers we have to understand this is not charity, this is an investment in their company's bottom line."

The state is mobilizing the business community through the Illinois Hires Heroes program, a group of nearly 100 employers committed to hiring and retaining veteran employees. Garcia says thousands of veterans attended hiring events last year, and hundreds of job offers were made the same day. Resources are also available for employers through the Illinois Department of Employment Security, and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Garcia says veterans face a variety of challenges when they return home that can impact their job search, including health issues, navigating the system of benefits, and readjusting to family life. He adds Vietnam veterans face additional obstacles, as they did not "receive the welcome" they deserved.

"As a result there are issues that impact their employability and have led to long-term unemployment," he says. "There's a dislocation of them that a couple of decades later has permeated to the top."

Garcia says the state is specifically working with Vietnam veterans to ensure they continue to receive benefits, including education, that can lead to employment. Other state programs help veterans with resumés and job searches, and grant them academic credit for education and training they received during their military service.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL