How to Hire Veterans

What are the best ways to hire veterans? Much depends on the nature of your business, whether you are seeking a certain type of status associated by veteran-operated businesses, and how many new hires you wish to bring on.

Hiring a veteran brings with it associated benefits in some cases. The IRS official site has a page dedicated to the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), which provides tax breaks for employers who hire from certain classes of the work force including those who draw SSI, long-term family assistance recipients, and veterans.

Hiring veterans also means the need for fully codified employer policies about how the company will manage an employee’s military duty commitments for Guard, Reserve, or even active duty hires.

Knowing Where To Look

There are many places you can look for veterans to hire as full-time, part-time, commission, or contractors; state and local agencies have job placement and career development programs you can partner with.

Employers should consider participating in job fairs near military bases, Guard and Reserve unit headquarters, or even at college campuses with a strong ROTC presence. But knowing where to look for suitable job candidates is only half the battle.

The best way to hire veterans includes making a fully informed choice when choosing to bring one on board; you should know what your rights and responsibilities are as an employer ahead of your hiring decision.

Fortunately, there is excellent advice from a number of government agencies that can help. The Department of Labor, and even the government’s hiring portal, all have helpful information for hiring managers and supervisors.

How To Hire A Veteran: The Department Of Labor (DOL)

The Department of Labor official site has a section dedicated to the hiring of veterans and associated programs and policies. DOL veteran programs include:

  • Military Spouses
  • Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program
  • Jobs for Veterans State Grants
  • Stand Down
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
  • Federal Contractor Reporting / VETS-4212
  • HIRE Vets Medallion Program
  • Veterans’ Preference
  • Women Veterans

These programs are aimed at employers, event organizers, licensing agencies, etc. They are not designed as placement options for individual job seekers, but as resources for those who hire, train, etc.

In many cases the programs above may target certain portions of the veteran population; employers who need resources to hire homeless veterans, those who need guidance or assistance with federal contracting procedures or in properly helping job seekers apply veteran preference, etc.

DOL also provides direct advice for those who want to hire veterans; there are employment representatives in each state and a general contact e-mail address for those who need to speak to a DOL rep about hiring vets.

Hiring Vets: Advice From The Department of Veterans Affairs

The VA has created a Veterans Employment Toolkit designed to help those who wish to employ vets. The toolkit includes information on government subsidies that can be used to offset the salary of a new hire, assistive and adaptive technology, how to interpret a veteran’s “non-pay work experience,” and information on VA incentives that may be offered to certain companies for hiring qualified veterans.

The VA toolkit also includes information about Department of Labor programs that incorporate online training and other resources for those who want to hire from America’s ever-growing pool of military members and vets.

The VA Veteran Employer Toolkit is featured prominently in the VA Vocational Rehab & Employment official site. There is another portion of the VA official site titled Veterans Opportunity to Work that features a section aimed specifically at employers.

The VA requests owners and supervisors who want to learn more about participating in the program to contact the VA directly at Call 1-800-827-1000 or the nearest VA regional office and ask for the VR&E Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor or Employment Coordinator. You can also visit the VA VR&E employer webpage .

Employer Support Of The Guard And Reserve (ESGR)

At the beginning of this article we mentioned employer obligations for members of the Guard and Reserve. ESGR is a government program designed to help employers understand and meet their legal commitment to employees who serve. Knowing your responsibilities to your Guard and Reserve employees is crucial to staying in legal compliance with federal law.

It is also key to maintaining a good-faith relationship with your Guard and Reserve hires. As with ADA law, not knowing your legal responsibilities in this area is a huge liability. State law may also play a role in your obligations to Guard and Reserve troops; know before you hire.


Public Law 115-31, also known as the Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act of 2017 (HIRE Vets Act), required the establishment of a program which “recognizes employer efforts to recruit, employ, and retain veterans.”

Those who meet certain criteria established by the Act, “will receive a “HIRE Vets Medallion Award.” That may not sound like much to an outsider, but veterans who apply for jobs at companies that have earned this award may feel more confident about their potential employer knowing the company has been evaluated and praised under the award program.

It’s not the same as a DoD stamp of approval, but those who hire with the medallion award certainly have an advantage when trying to make an impression about the quality of the workplace.

The HIRE Vets Act awards are aimed at three different categories of employer: large, medium, and small businesses. “For each award, the employer must satisfy a set of criteria. Verification of these criteria includes a self-attestation by the applicant and a check for violations of veteran-related DOL labor laws by the U.S. Department of Labor” according to the official site.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

EEOC publishes a fact sheet for veterans titled, Understanding Your Employment Rights Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): A Guide for Veterans.

This fact sheet is aimed at the employee, but it is critical for all who hire vets to know these policies and understand what the new hire will expect from you, the employer, on a legal basis where ADA compliance and related issues are concerned.

Not all veterans have disabilities, but all who have them (military or not) are protected in the American workplace by ADA laws. As an employer, if you do not know your ADA responsibilities as well as employee rights, you set yourself up for major legal liability. Know before you hire.

Things To Ask Yourself When Hiring Veterans

Those who hire don’t always have military experience. When recruiting vets for your company, it’s important to remember that a military career requires skills far above and beyond the job title or even the job description. A new hire who held the rank of E4 or higher likely has been given management and leadership training, has functioned as a section head or an assistant department head, and may have other experience that is difficult to quantify on a resume but adds value to your company.

We all know the hiring process will involve interviews and a Q&A process of some kind, but what should an employer ask themselves before the interview?

  • Veterans often thrive on the same kind of structure they experienced in the military; they may not be used to the kind of ambiguity often experienced in the civilian hiring process. Have you established a way to help veterans understand the process of hiring once the resume has been submitted?
  • What are your most urgent needs for the company?
  • Are you asking about other job experience besides “direct experience” and the applicant’s education?
  • How will you make your veteran applicants more comfortable with your hiring/interviewing process? What would you do for someone if you knew you were the first civilian interviewer they had spoken with since leaving military service?
  • In your conversation with veterans, how will you try to understand and identify with their unique needs?

During the interview, it is very helpful for the interviewer to ask a veteran at the start to either avoid or explain military jargon that comes up in conversation. Don’t be too hard on a veteran for slipping back into acronym-speak; old habits are hard to break.

When your interviewee starts talking about “additional duties”, for example, that is a responsibility given to a military member that is not her main job, but is still expected as a member of the team.

An Army Public Affairs officer may be responsible for dealing with the press and for interacting with local leaders, but they are also tasked with conducting base tours for the public and escorting non-military VIP visitors to certain functions on post.

Was that the officer’s main duty? No, but it is significant enough to mention in an interview where relevant. That is the sort of nuance you can expect from your veteran resumes and interviews.

You can always ask for clarification in the interview. When it comes to additional duty (which is a subject that comes up frequently when a vet is asked what they did for a living while in uniform) always ask if the interviewee can quantify how much time was spent doing that duty (assuming it is relevant to the conversation).

You may be surprised at the breadth and depth of these extra tasks. A great example–the author of this article had an additional duty in his job as a reporter for Air Force Television News; he was the equipment inventory custodian for all the TV news cameras, microphones, and other broadcast gear.

The financial responsibility for this inventory? Valued at a million dollars, collectively. That is an additional duty worth mentioning in an interview if it’s relevant. Some additional duties are mundane, others require a great deal of attention.

A Hiring Guide for Military & Veterans

Many companies understand the value that veterans and military family members can bring to a workplace. Members of the military community have many qualities and skills that can benefit companies in a variety of industries.

What qualities can veterans and military family members bring to a company?

Companies that are interested in recruiting and hiring members of the military community can find employees in three categories:

  • Military spouses: spouses are often highly educated, but many need jobs that offer mobility and flexibility to allow them to continue their careers when their spouse’s job requires them to move.
  • Veterans: veterans have separated from the military and have education and/or professional experience and are seeking companies and organizations that can help them build on their existing training and skills.
  • Transitioning service members: service members who are transitioning are in the process of separating from the military and are looking to start their civilian career. These service members may be seeking assistance in their job search as they transition into the civilian workforce.

By hiring a member of the military community, a company can bring a great deal of value to their team. Some of the qualities these individuals contribute to a workplace include:

  • Ability to perform under pressure; veterans understand how to accomplish tasks on time and despite being under stress.
  • The ability to learn new concepts and skills, as well as transferable skills that have been proven in real-world situations.
  • Leadership skills, as well as skills in direction, motivation, inspiration, and delegation. Veterans understand leadership dynamics and how to lead many different types of people.
  • Teamwork and having a responsibility to coworkers, as well as the ability to be productive individually or as part of a team.
  • Diversity and inclusion; veterans can work alongside others regardless of their race, gender, ethnic background, economic status, or religion, and are able to cooperate with many different types of people.
  • Respecting procedures and having accountability.
  • Veterans are often knowledgeable about technical trends in business and industry and bring a global outlook and technological savvy to an employer.
  • Integrity, trustworthiness, and sincerity.
  • Resilience and the ability to overcome adversity.

Some additional qualities that veterans bring to an organization include:

  • An ability to learn new skills quickly
  • High rates of productivity
  • Higher retention rates after being hired
  • Loyalty to a company and to their coworkers

Veterans also offer a variety of “soft skills” that are valuable across many different industries.

These include:

  • Communication
  • Managerial skills
  • Problem solving

How can companies recruit veterans and military family members?

There are several steps that companies can take to recruit members of the military population:

  • Work to build the company’s brand in the military community as a military employer of choice.
  • Attend job fairs on military installations, or post job openings on military job boards.
  • Ask members of their existing workforce, especially those who have served in the military, if they have any contacts they could recommend for open positions within the company.
  • Utilize government initiatives such as FedsHireVets and to post job openings and recruit veteran applicants.
  • Use a skills translator to translate military job duties into civilian skills and ask veterans in your organization to help mentor new recruits.

How can hiring veterans help companies?

In addition to the qualities veterans bring as employees, companies can receive certain benefits as a result of hiring veterans. The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program provides several incentives to companies that employ veterans. These include:

  • Salary reimbursement: under the Special Employer Incentive, employers may be eligible to receive incentives for hiring veterans facing obstacles to employment, which include reimbursement of up to half the veteran’s salary for as long as six months.
  • Subsidies for salaries: the VR&E provides on-the-job training and subsidizes salaries for veterans so employers pay an apprentice-level wage. As the veteran gains experience, the employer pays a higher portion of their salary until the training program is complete, and the employer pays the veteran’s full salary.
  • Assistive technology: VR&E can provide workplace modifications, specialized tools, and equipment to allow veterans to perform their job duties.
  • Federal tax credits: under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, employers who hire veterans may be eligible to receive tax credits.

What are the benefits of hiring military spouses?

Military spouses face many barriers to employment and building a career due to their military lifestyle. These can include having to change jobs often due to frequent moves, and difficulties obtaining childcare when spouses are deployed. The current unemployment rate for military spouses is 24%, higher than the national average. The Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) was created to address these challenges and help spouses find employment. MSEP is part of the Department of Defense’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program, which helps connect military spouses and employers.

In addition to MSEP, SECO offers multiple resources to military spouses to help improve career and education opportunities, including:

  • Helping spouses identify their skills, interests, and goals through career exploration opportunities.
  • Training and education to help spouses identify licensing, credentialing, or academic requirements that will help them reach their career goals.
  • Employment networking and connections to help spouses find a rewarding career.
  • Employment readiness assistance to help spouses market their skills.

Military spouses have many valuable qualities that can help an organization, including:

  • The ability to handle pressure and stress: they must deal with spouse deployments, relocate often, learn about a new location, and develop new support networks frequently.
  • They are able to learn new skills quickly.
  • They take responsibility, are accountable, and are loyal employees.
  • They are patient, flexible, resilient, and able to adapt to new environments and cultures.
  • They have excellent communication skills, emotional intelligence, are able to handle logistics, and have many other abilities.

Career Help & Military Transition Assistance

Veterans returning to the workforce after military service face a variety of challenges. Translating military experience to a civilian resume is one of the most obvious of these, but even this is too easily taken for granted in terms of how easy it may or may not be to do so and what current trends in job hunting (and resume writing) might be at the time of separation from the U.S. military.

Fortunately there is help available for transitioning service members. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers career and employment help through a variety of programs including job counseling and transition advice, to support and training for self-employed veterans.

At the time of this writing, many of these services were previously linked with the government website called, but the pages of that website now redirect to the Department of Veterans Affairs official site, If you have previously researched your career counseling and transition assistance options, you may find your resources redirected to the VA.

CareerScope: A Helpful Tool To Use Before You Start Your Transition

Long before you accept your final military orders and begin outprocessing, you should review your job skills and think about how you want to transfer your abilities to the civilian workplace. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a helpful tool to start your transition out of a life in uniform and into civilian life.

This tool is known as CareerScope and is offered only to qualified military members and qualified family members. What makes you eligible to use CareerScope?

The VA official site states those allowed access to this tool include:

  • Dependents who qualify for VA education benefits
  • Veterans
  • Currently serving military members
  • Dependents who are already using VA education benefits

How CareerScope Can Help You

CareerScope is an assessment tool. The VA official site states that using CareerScope will provide the user with an assessment of how interests, aptitude, and experience can translate into job or learning opportunities.

Once the assessment is complete you are provided with recommendations about post-military careers, education, and training that may help pursue the career options discussed in the assessment.

CareerScope breaks things down into a dozen “interest areas” that include a set of “work activity statements” from these areas. The assessment covers general learning abilities, manual dexterity, verbal and numerical skills, and more.

Once the assessment is completed you can apply for VA Education And Career Counseling (see below).

Technical Requirements To Use CareerScope

Use of the VA CareerScope tool requires the user to create an account. New users may register on the VA official site so they can begin using the assessment tool.

Chapter 36 Educational And Career Counseling

Those leaving military service may need help finding ways to transition into a civilian career. Some military career fields translate directly into the civilian job market, but others may not be so easily matched with jobs in the private sector. VA Chapter 36 Educational and Career Counseling is a free program for veterans with any discharge other than Dishonorable, offering the following services:

  • Educational and career counseling to locate training programs or job opportunities
  • Counseling to help veterans choose new jobs
  • Academic and adjustment counseling

Eligibility For VA Educational And Career Counseling

The Department of Veterans Affairs official site publishes a list of those who are eligible for VA Educational and Career Counseling. They include, but may not be limited to, the following:

  • Any veteran currently eligible for a VA education benefit
  • Transitioning service members with six months or less remaining before discharge from active duty
  • Veterans within one year after discharge from active duty
  • Any service member currently eligible for a VA education benefit
  • All other current VA education beneficiaries

Services offered by the VA include:

  • Benefits Coaching – learn how to make the most of your VA benefits and resources
  • Career Choice – VA counseling designed to help you understand civilian career options based on the user’s interests, experience, etc.
  • Personalized Support – Counseling and personalized support for both academic and military transition issues

How To Apply For VA Educational and Career Counseling

  • Log in to your eBenefits account
    Select “Apply”
  • Select “Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits”
  • Apply for Educational and Career Counseling
  • After your eligibility is confirmed you will receive an invitation to an orientation session at the VA Regional Office nearest you

How To Apply Without Access To eBenefits 

  • Print and complete VA Form 28-8832
  • Mail VA Form 28-8832 to the nearest VA Regional Office, addressed attention to Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment
  • After your eligibility is confirmed you will receive an invitation to an orientation session at the VA Regional Office nearest you

The VA Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation And Employment Program (VR&E)

Veterans and currently serving military members with disabilities can find assistance from the VA under the Chapter 31 VR&E program. This is for those with service-connected disabilities that affects the ability to work. There are a group of five “tracks” designed to help, including:

  • Self-Employment Track – made to help veterans with a service-connected disability start and maintain a business, freelance career, etc.
  • Reemployment Track – created to help service members and veterans know their rights when returning to civilian employment after military service.
  • Rapid Access to Employment Track – made to assist veterans in finding jobs that match their military skills.
  • Independent Living Track – created to match veterans with resources to help them live “as independently as possible if you can’t return to work right away” according to the official site.
  • Employment Through Long-Term Services Track – This track is intended to help those eligible for vocational training to help you develop new job skills.

Eligibility Requirements For VA Chapter 31 VR&E Benefits

Veterans may be eligible for VR&E benefits and services if all of the following apply:

  • The veteran did not receive a dishonorable discharge, and;
  • Has a service-connected disability rating of at least 10% from VA, and;
  • Applies for VR&E services.

There is a basic maximum eligibility time frame of 12 years from the day the veteran receives her date of separation from military service OR the date of receipt of the first VA disability rating.

Chapter 31 VR&E Benefits For Those Still Serving In The Military

Qualifying active duty service members may be eligible for VR&E benefits when the following conditions apply:

  • The service member has a 20% or higher pre-discharge disability rating (also known as a “memorandum rating”) and is departing military service soon OR;
  • The service member is participating in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) process OR;
  • The service member is waiting for a military discharge due to a medical condition resulting from a condition that occurred in the line of duty.

Basic Services Available Through The VA Chapter 31 VR&E Program

  • Resume development
  • Evaluations to determine your job abilities, skills, and interests
  • Vocational counseling
  • Rehabilitation planning for employment services
  • Job training, apprenticeships, and non-paid work experiences
  • Training/learning at a college, vocational, technical, or business school
  • Counseling
  • Medical referrals
  • Independent living services for those unable to work due to disabilities
  • Case management

Applying For VA Chapter 31 VR&E Benefits

 At the time of this writing, the Department of Veterans Affairs accepts Chapter 31 applications through the eBenefits portal. Those who do not have eBenefits accounts will need to create them or contact the nearest VA office to get assistance.

Servicemembers should know that it is not required to wait until final outprocessing and discharge to apply for VR&E benefits. You can fill out VA Form 28-0588, VA Vocational Rehabilitation – Getting Ahead After You Get Out and submit it to the Department of Veterans affairs. Eligibility in such cases is possible if one of the following is true:

  • The veteran expects an other than dishonorable discharge and has a VA memorandum rating of 20% or more OR;
  • The applicant is in the process of being reviewed by a Physical Evaluation Board OR;
  • The veteran is in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES).

After a veteran or service member has applied, the VA will arrange a meeting with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to determine whether there is a current or potential employment handicap and discuss eligibility for VR&E benefits and services.

The VA official site says, “You have an employment handicap if your service-connected disability limits your ability to prepare for, obtain, and maintain suitable employment (a job that doesn’t make your disability worse, is stable, and matches your abilities, aptitudes, and interests).”

The Department of Veterans Affairs will make what they call an “entitlement decision” and begin working with the veteran to develop a rehabilitation plan and schedule the use of services, etc.

Contact the nearest VA office in your area to learn more about Chapter 31 VR&E benefits and how they apply to you.