It’s Time We Expand Veterans Benefits for the 21st Century Economy

Introducing a series on the successes of veterans in tech

Each day, nearly 550 military veterans transition to civilian life looking for jobs. Meanwhile, the technology industry is growing fast, driving up the demand for hardworking individuals who can take on roles in well-paid and understaffed tech fields. Technology itself is also lowering the barriers to entry for entrepreneurs to launch their own businesses, which in turn create new jobs.

Not only is there increasing demand for workers in the technology industry, military veterans are also uniquely positioned for roles in this field. Trained as leaders and decision makers in complex situations, many veterans have the fundamentals to quickly learn or adapt problem-solving skills as an entrepreneur launching a startup or an engineer at a fast-paced tech company.

Unfortunately, many veterans who choose to enter the tech industry — either as an employee or a founder — face major obstacles.

One obstacle is the limitation on benefits that cover relevant training, education, and programming. Federal funding guidelines make it particularly difficult for veterans to access non-traditional, skill-based education programs that are relatively new to the education landscape, but are already producing success stories. These programs provide crucial resources for making tech training accessible to people of all backgrounds, especially those new to the civilian workforce. Not only can these programs provide skills that bridge military experience with roles in the tech sector, but they also provide the tech vocabulary and network that enable veterans to land the job.

Similarly, federal funding guidelines make it hard for veterans to use the benefits they have earned through their service towards building a business. Twenty-five percent of active duty service members report that they would like to start their own company. Many veterans are empowered to create their own jobs and jobs for others. Unfortunately, restrictions around the use of GI benefits preclude them from putting that money toward a startup or un-accredited alternative entrepreneurial education programs that help bring their ideas to reality.

Congress should develop policies that help veterans transition into roles in the tech sector. Growing the diversity of the tech sector and expanding innovation in America depends on it.

Throughout the week, we’ll be posting stories from veterans from around the country who’ve pursued careers in the technology sector following their military service. Each of their stories is unique: some built on tech skills that they had already acquired during their services, others sought to build an entirely new skill base, and several of the veterans profiled here have started their own companies.

Together, these men and women showcase the enormous potential within the veteran community to serve and lead in our country’s most rapidly growing job sector. Yet to accelerate these successes and enable more veterans to enter into this industry, we must do more.

Watch this space for stories from veterans who’ve made strides in the technology industry or find them all here. You can also follow the conversation about how to support more veterans in this growing sector at #VetsWhoTech.

by the team at Engine, a public policy organization supporting tech entrepreneurship. This story is part of Engine’s series, “Innovation for All,” documenting efforts to diversify tech. Read this post and others on our blog at http://engine.is/news.