The Fine Line, part 5, by guest essayist Amy Fernaays

Leaving a job, even with a modest guarantee that it will be there when you get back is a hard task. For the working military, the fear of being replaced, and not being able to support their family only adds to the trauma soldiers’ face on the battlefield every day. To make matters worse, there are loopholes in the USERRA, and soldiers’ are being denied their job back upon return from deployment.
Court cases against companies can last years and reservists are left jobless in the meantime. Dave Lenckus states,” The U.S. Department of Defense last figures showed 17,000 to 21,000 active duty personnel being released from duty per month.” Add to that the 32,000 plus reservists’ coming back home and it is a recipe for disaster. The unemployment rate for veterans will continue to rise as soldiers fight for their jobs, and compete for new employment in a job market that can barely employ civilians.
As a battle rages in the military sector, one is brewing in the private sector as well. Companies and businesses are crying foul as laws are passed to protect the jobs of reservists.
For employers the problems are many from the wording of the USERRA to the amount of time a reservist has to apply for re-employment. Jerry Geisel points out, “Employers with 401(k) plans must give returning veterans the opportunity to make retroactive contributions. Companies will have to match those retroactive deferrals to the same extent they matched the other workers’ contributions during the period of military service. Returning employees have no more than five years-in which to make retroactive contributions.”
If financial issues aren’t enough there is a bigger issue with re-employing veterans. As Samuel Greencard illustrates, “It’s a challenging environment,” says David Dahler, director of human resources for insurance and consulting giant Aon Corp. Although many troops return ready to tackle a job in the corporate world, “a lot of individuals come back and spend months re-acclimating to private life. Some of them aren’t entirely ready for a formal job and all that comes with it.”
Aon is one of a few companies that have implemented policies and programs to help veteran’s transition back to civilian life. Samuel Greencard states, “Challenges range from creating programs to train and assimilate veterans to figuring out what to do with an employee who has filled in for a reservist returning from deployment.”
When dealing with returning veterans a company will have to deal with the transition from military life to civilian life. “The military does a great job turning civilians into soldiers,” said Greg Langan, the Mendota Heights, Minn. based director of risk control services at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., “But when military personnel return from active duty, ‘there’s no transition for them into civilian life,” reiterates Dave Lenckus.
Dave Lenckus indicates that, “Many returning enlistees are young and lack experience in the workplace. Some also face psychological and physical challenges, including post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD,”
Dealing with returning soldiers is going to be a tough task for most businesses and it is clear that the smaller the company or business the greater the task will be. Small businesses do not have the resources necessary to retrain, counsel or provide financial assistance to their returning veteran.

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