Employee Wellness

Helping Our Veterans With Their Legal Needs

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The road from active duty military to a successful civilian life is not easy. Help your veteran employees navigate their legal issues by offering them legal insurance. 

They’ve served their country honorably, often putting their lives on the line. But once their service is up, many of our military veterans face daunting challenges in their return to civilian life from active duty -- from finding work and adjusting to a new environment to addressing physical and mental health issues . Each year, approximately 200,000 service members will embark on that transition.

Trading a military career, community and way of life for a civilian one can be overwhelming, even when times are good. But it can be especially stressful in the midst of a global pandemic, when employment, financial, and health uncertainty is high. For some veterans, grappling with these social issues can lead to a host of legal issues. 

Veterans in the workforce face challenges

Today, there are roughly 18 million veterans in the U.S. -- half are under age 65, and of those 77 percent are part of the workforce. However, nearly a third of working veterans are “underemployed,” meaning they tend to be working in jobs for which they’re over-qualified and are likely to be lower paid for their education and experience level. By comparison, this is double the rate of nonveterans.

Hiring managers often find it difficult to evaluate the skills and experience acquired in the military and apply them to civilian job requirements. This ‘civilian-military divide’ can create misperceptions about former service members’ capabilities. 

As Lisa Umali, Senior Director, Human Resources at CVS Pharmacy explained in the LinkedIn Veterans Opportunity Report, “I’ve spent a lifetime using the skills that I learned in Army counterintelligence. But when I came out of the military, all that people thought I could be was a security guard.”

Not surprisingly, underemployment is the top contributor to veterans’ current financial stress, according to a recent Blue Star Families survey

Fortunately, there are a number of organizations with programs that help veterans work through the job search process and more. Take the USO’s Pathfinder program, for example. Transition specialists work one-on-one with active service members, veterans and their spouses across the country to identify their personal and professional goals, develop an action plan, and connect them to resources that are the best fit for them. Those resources focus on:

Employment

Education

Mentorship

Increased access to relevant verteran's benefits in their communities

Other organizations that bridge the gap between transitioning veterans and the business community include Fourblock, Veterans on Wall Street, and Hiring Our Heroes. These services all help veterans better prepare for and find meaningful employment.

Legal benefits can support veteran-employees

What can employers do to ensure their culture is veteran inclusive? One strategy to better engage and retain veterans in the workforce is to tailor the benefits program for this group’s particular needs. Beyond medical and mental health benefits, the availability of financial literacy or wellness programs and legal insurance can go a long way to smooth the transition.

In the military, housing, health care, food and pay were largely managed for service members. Moving to civilian life requires financial education to learn how to manage their income, choose the right workplace benefits, understand financial planning, and access military benefits.

Veterans, like any other employee, can also benefit from legal counsel to help with a wide range of life’s issues – from the happy moments to the more difficult ones. Legal insurance makes it affordable for employees to get the legal help they need, whenever they need it. While veterans and their families face many of the same legal challenges that the general community does, there are some distinct issues and complexities for employed vets. Here are just four examples:

Home ownership. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) helps veterans with buying a home or refinancing a loan. They may qualify for loans at very favorable terms to build, improve, or keep their current home. A borrower with a VA-guaranteed or VA-held loan who is experiencing a financial hardship due to COVID–19 may request a loan forbearance. A qualified attorney could help veterans to access and manage the Veterans Housing Assistance benefits they’ve earned. 

Debt issues. More than one-third of post-9/11 veterans still report challenges paying their bills in the first few years after leaving the military. Nearly 60 percent of veterans 35 to 44 years old had credit card debt compared with 48 percent of nonveteran households. Keep in mind that all debts are legal obligations. But not all debts are of equal priority. An attorney can explain the consequences of not paying each kind of debt and help set payment priorities. For those facing a lawsuit, repossession or foreclosure, or even bankruptcy, an attorney can outline the options and guide the process. 

Divorce and Child Support. Again, a lawyer can play a key role assisting a veteran who is going through this difficult time. State law and local procedures largely govern divorce, but some federal statutes and military regulations may also apply, depending on where they file. Considerations include how to divide military retirement benefits, the continuation of healthcare coverage and the impact of chronic mental health conditions, like PTSD, on child custody and visitation.

Estate Planning. While no one likes to think about their own mortality, it’s critical to spell out end-of-life wishes to make it easier on those left behind. Complications can arise from veterans’ specific types of retirement benefits, insurance or other death benefits. Additionally, veterans can receive military funeral honors and be buried in a national veterans’ cemetery. A burial allowance could help pay for a veteran’s funeral expenses

The road from active duty military to a successful civilian life is not easy. What else can you do to thank veterans for their service and support them on their journey? Consider donating to the many worthy veterans’ organizations who welcome contributions from individuals and corporations alike. 

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