Employing Veterans: Debunking the Myths

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During a panel discussion at the Brookings Institute last week, former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke echoed a familiar refrain from the last decade: veterans have an employment problem.

During the event, titled “The Defense Economy and American Prosperity,” Dr. Bernanke told the audience that veterans lag behind their non-veteran peers in the private sector, bringing fewer skills to the labor force and earning lower wages once they get there. Dr. Bernanke named what he saw as the main culprit in the disparity: the military itself.

“The military takes our younger people and uses them for good purposes, but it’s not really adding much to the private sector through training or other experience,” he said. In other words, when America beckons its youth to serve in the armed forces, it is hoisting upon them a far longer and deeper economic sacrifice than many of us realize.

Dr. Bernanke mentioned that one of his former students in graduate macroeconomics conducted a study that looked at how Vietnam veterans fared in terms of their long-term market experience. The student concluded there was no real benefit provided to veterans by the military in terms of skills and earning potential. As a veteran and also one of the Fed Chairman’s former macroeconomic students at Princeton, I am delighted to take this opportunity to set the record straight about the current state of our veteran community.

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