Underemployment is growing trend among veterans, labor experts say

Front and Center: Employment is the lowest funded of any veteran program area

SAN ANTONIO – Experts say the Bureau of Labor Statistics is falling short in accurately reporting the veteran unemployment rate for several reasons, but an issue many vets are facing right now is they’re not landing the jobs they are qualified for.

Recent data from the Veterans Metrics Initiative shows that a combined under-employment and unemployment rate for transitioning service members and veterans is at a staggering 61 percent.

But what does under-employment mean?

“We mean people working beneath their objective skill set and experience. So, they are getting paid less than they should for the experience they have and for the education they have,” Dan Goldenberg, executive director of the Call of Duty Endowment Program said.

Goldenberg said underemployment is a growing societal problem that is hitting veterans especially hard.

“We noticed that we’re hearing anecdotally from veterans, ‘hey, I got a job, I’ve got two jobs, but I can’t pay the rent because I can’t get enough hours.’ So, you know, on the one hand, they’re employed, but on the other hand, they’re not employed in a quality manner such that they can, you know, pay the rent,” Goldenberg said.

One of the most requested services from transitioning service members and veterans is employment support. And to make matters worse, employment is the lowest funded of any veteran program area.

“So, if you take what the entire U.S. Governments spends, which is about $300 billion, less than 1/10 of 1% of that spending, less than 1/10 of 1% goes to employment, which is kind of crazy for a lot of reasons,” Goldenberg said.

So, according to Goldenberg, if we can get veterans into high quality jobs, their need for other high-cost services requiring government funding support goes way down.

“So, it’s a force multiplier if we can, you know, spend a little bit of money, if we doubled it to 2/10 of 1% of the federal veteran’s fund, we would double the amount of support we could give veterans in landing those high-quality jobs,” Goldenberg said.

For Air Force veteran Esteban Soto Jr. leaving behind the ranks of the Air Force came with a crippling sense of anxiety.

“When you are getting out, not only are you having a wave of emotions that you’re not going to be putting on your uniform anymore, but you also have to find a job,” Soto said.

And to land a good job you need a pretty stand-out resume.

“That right there is probably the biggest hurdle, and that’s the one that causes for me at least the most anxiety,” said Soto.

So, he found some assistance through a nonprofit vetted by the Call of Duty Endowment Program, and asked one simple question and the rest was history.

“My resume hasn’t been touched in several years, and I know it needs help. If I provide you with what I have, can you help me?” Soto asked.

And that is what Goldenberg says is the start to making a dent in that 61% of under and unemployment among veterans... individual transition support.

“And we can help these veterans find their customized solution if they take the time to understand what they really want to do and how to present their experience and training and education, they’re going to land the high-quality job, that high fat job. They’re going to be happy. They’re going to be well-paid. They’re going to stay,” said Goldenberg.

At last check there are about 45,000 nonprofits with the word veteran in it who are well intentioned but not necessarily well-equipped. With all those options there’s a chance for choice overload, resulting in no action taken.

The Call of Duty Endowment Program is truly a one-stop-shop for all transitioning service members and veterans.

DAV and ‘Recruitmilitary’ are hosting a free hiring event for all transitioning members of the military, veterans, military spouses, and dependents.

The job fair will take place at the Shrine Auditorium on Thursday, July 28 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

About the Authors:

Jonathan Cotto is a reporter for KSAT’s Good Morning San Antonio. He’s a bilingual award-winning news reporter and he joined KSAT in 2021. Before coming to San Antonio, Cotto was reporting along the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas. He’s a veteran of the United States Navy.