As a country, we owe a great debt of gratitude to our military for their service and sacrifice. Unfortunately, these heroes, with a wide array of transferable skills, face discrimination and critical barriers that make it difficult for them to find and keep meaningful employment.
Approximately 99,720 veterans reside in Orange County (U.S. Census Bureau 2020). According to a report issued by the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work entitled “The State of the American Veteran: The Orange County Veterans Study,” over 70% of Orange County Veterans do not have a job when they leave the military, only 30% are employed full time, 28% are underemployed, 33% have incomes below U.S. poverty level guidelines, 35% are in need of permanent housing, and 18% are unhoused.
A growing number of Veterans face significant challenges when it comes to affording the high cost of living in Orange County. The cost of living in this area is a staggering 87% higher than the national average. In fact, just to be able to afford a one-bedroom apartment, one would need to earn $36.61 per hour (2022-2023 Orange County Community Indicators Report). Given these circumstances, it is crucial that transitioning active duty, reserve, guard, Veterans, and their families have access to reliable, consistent, and well-paying job opportunities.
They deserve the support and opportunities necessary to thrive in this challenging environment. Yet, many struggle to find work and are underemployed. In low-wage occupations that do not utilize the knowledge or experience gained through their military service, they are not able to adequately provide for themselves and their families.
Family members of servicemen and women face many of the same issues returning to civilian life. The majority have been absent from the workforce for long periods, have difficulty accessing educational opportunities and job skills training, and have gaps in their employment histories due to their partners’ military commitments. They are also in need of assistance to resolve their individual barriers to employment, build their self-confidence, and identify career opportunities that align with their skills and civilian career goals.