According to DOL's BLS, among the 284,000 unemployed veterans in 2019, 56 percent were ages 25 to 54, 39 percent were age 55 and over, and 5 percent were ages 18 to 24. And according to a 2018 VA Report, minority veterans face a 44 percent higher risk of unemployment than nonminority veterans. Working-age rural veterans (18 to 64 years old) had a lower employment rate than rural nonveterans and urban veterans.
Programs like the Veterans Employment Through Technology Education Courses and the Rapid Retraining Program to strengthen existing retraining job opportunities and establish new resources to get veterans back on their feet are among the critical avenues that can assist many veterans with disabilities re-enter the workforce. However, no one entity can meet the needs of all disabled veterans, many of whom are denied access to VA vocational rehabilitation services because their disabilities were acquired outside of military service or they have passed the time limits by which they could have been eligible for these VA programs. Robust training and upskilling programs, including paid training and internships, offered through the broader workforce system could assist veterans with disabilities in exploring new career fields.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) included a number of provisions to serve veterans with disabilities through America's Job Centers and Title I programs but it is unclear how effective those provisions have been since the last reauthorization. Better data collection is needed by DOL to ascertain how well the workforce system has served veterans with significant disabilities so that steps can be taken to improve any issues in performance.
Finally, in 2019, Congress approved $300,000 for a Disabled Veterans Program within DOL VETS but that program's implementation has been hindered by staffing challenges. By connecting with all of the programs within DOL and throughout the federal government that serve veterans with disabilities, the Disabled Veterans Program could shine a long overlooked light on this veteran population. DOL should examine the barriers that are standing in the way of its undertaking this mission and take corrective steps to begin targeting the urgent employment needs of all veterans with disabilities.