Unemployment Rate for Young Veterans Continues to Climb, Companies Working to Make Civilian Life Easier

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USA  --  While the nation's unemployment rate declines, that rate is climbing for America's youngest veterans, moving from 4.4% in September to 6.3% in January.

Efforts are underway to increase opportunities for servicemen and women in their transition to civilian life, as Contessa Brewer reports.

"We still see around half a million veterans that are unemployed right now, and over a million veterans that are underemployed," said Brian Stann, President and CEO of Hire Heroes USA.

For the nation's most recent veterans--those who have served since 9/11--the job situation is always volatile. It is typically above the national unemployment rate and the rate for veterans overall.

In the past six months it has continued climbing.

"They're competing against their peer group that just graduated college and a lot of companies do not equate four years of military service to four years at a university," said Stann.

Zachary Watson left the Marines last fall and now is a full-time student.

"A lot of people are realizing, 'okay, I can't stay in here. I've got to get a job or do something else,'" he said.

President Trump's federal hiring freeze may hit these vets hard because it is a main path to civilian employment. One-third of federal workers are veterans.

"The opportunities are not there. Now you have to start creating them," said veteran and actor J.R. Martinez.

Martinez survived an IED attack in Iraq, then landed a role on All My Children and won Dancing With the Stars. He says it's tough to transition from a regimented, follow-orders environment to the civilian world where self-starters succeed.

"We're not going to go out and be our own agents. We sit back in the back of the room, we don't ask, we don't approach, there's very few that have that amazing quality," he said.

A number of companies are working to help make the transition to civilian life easier.

JPMorgan Chase dedicated a team to recruiting veterans and then acclimating and retaining them, hiring 11,000 in the past five years. Starbucks has hired 8,800 veterans and military spouses. NBCUniversal and its parent Comcast partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for a Hiring our Heroes initiative.

Real-life veterans hope employers see how their experience translates to business success.

"I was responsible for being part of the whole organization and unit that was repairing helicopters that are millions of dollars. How many 22-year-olds are in charge of stuff like that?" said Watson.

Martinez also said, "Give us a chance to sell ourselves to you and to prove to you that we can and we will."