A job fair in Hamden Wednesday was draped in red, white, blue and camouflage. “Hiring Our Heroes” aimed to benefit both veterans and employers alike.
Dakota Meyer, a 25-year-old retired Marine from Kentucky who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in combat in Afghanistan in 2008, now travels the country speaking at employment fairs like this one. His message to employers: you won’t find prospective employees who will be more committed to their mission than veterans. He notes that his generation’s soldiers signed up voluntarily, not because they had to.
“These men and women could have done anything they wanted to. Gone to college, could’ve done anything,” said Meyer, who also owns several businesses. “They chose to be bigger and they chose to be greater and serve their country.”
Over the last four years, veteran unemployment rates have decreased by a total of just over four percent, in part becauuse of employers commitment to hire veterans. But, over the next five years, one million veterans will separate from active duty.
“The challenge is really ahead of us,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut). “And, all you’re seeing today at this event will have to be, not only repeated, but multiplied.”
The Connecticut Department of Labor’s Step Up program provides wage and training subsidies to employers that hire an unemployed jobseeker, including veterans.
“An employer would receive up to $12,000 over a six month period for hiring an unemployed vet,” said Victoria Gelpke, the Step Up Program Manager.
Still, misperceptions about veterans have led some employers and landlords to hesitate when looking at a veteran’s application. In a 2012 Center for a New American Security study, over 50 percent of companies interviewed cited “negative stereotype,” such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as a reason why they might not hire a veteran.
“The fear is that a veteran is going to be violent or disruptive in the workplace because of these invisible hidden wounds,” added Blumenthal, who, as a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, has introduced legislation that would make this sort of discrimination against veterans illegal