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Reintegrating Veterans: Giving Credit to Military Experience

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Meg Mitchum and Daniel Hutchinson

Former Army Staff Sergeant Meg Mitchum and former Specialist Daniel Hutchinson, combat medics who served in Iraq, were guests on last night’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The discussion centered around the problem of transitioning to a civilian job without the certifications required even though they did the job in the field. Their work in the military meets the rigors of the job in the civilian world but the job requires certifications from these otherwise qualified candidates. Their job in the military is essentially that of an EMT and they did everything an EMT would do. Both tended to critically wounded soldiers in Iraq and provided emergency care that saved lives.

“What is the disconnect? What is going on here that is not allowing people that are clearly qualified, intelligent, tenacious, hard-working, and courageous to get the jobs that they are absolutely qualified for?”

“You clearly both have had the experience and the training far above and beyond what any of these jobs would require,” Jon stated. The experience, he stated, should qualify them for work as paramedics but doesn’t. Mitchum explained that the experience is clearly there: “We practiced medicine at that level without the certification.” Upon returning from the military, that job experience does not translate directly to what civilian employers are looking for. Daniel recommended that returning men and women receive career advice for resume writing in order to describe those military skills to the private sector; this is especially important as post 9/11 veteran unemployment is high.

“You should be able to do the same job that you did in the military, you can do in the civilian world” Hutchinson stated.
But veterans encounter obstacles to prove their expertise. Daniel stated that retrieving documentation of certifications or awards from the Department of Defense or the VA takes months or even years. Jon showed that veterans who seek those necessary records get the runaround. The records keeping by the DOD and VA are entirely too cumbersome and frustrating to navigate for most veterans. The DOD website advises interested parties to contact The National Personnel Records Center which does not even accept email and requires an actual letter to send the necessary forms.

The issue of this disconnect between civilian and military qualifications for ostensibly the same job could be remedied: the military should be certifying servicemembers through training and experience as they perform their jobs with accredited testing or provide accelerated programs for veterans that combines the military job experience with the particulars of the civilian requirements rather than having veterans start the process over

“You should be able to do the same job that you did in the military, you can do in the civilian world, ” Hutchinson stated.

Source: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, episode aired on October 24, 2012, interview segment with Meg Mitchum and Daniel Hutchinson

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