Veterans’ untapped earning potential

US military veterans may be missing out on potential earnings after active duty. More than 150,000 service members leave the military each year, but 90,000 of them end up earning less than they did on active duty. Improving the employment outcomes for the latter cohort could amount to collective earnings of almost $15 billion over ten years, senior partner Scott Blackburn and colleagues note in their analysis. This presents an opportunity for organizations seeking workers with ready-made skills.

The potential loss of annual earnings for veterans transitioning to the workforce could reach nearly $15 billion over ten years.

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The top pair of graphs show the potential loss of earnings for a veteran transitioning to the workforce. The left graph shows the annual gaps in earnings from year 1 to year 10, and the right shows the cumulative gap of >$160,000. The bottom pair of graphs show the total gap across all veterans. When multiplied by the >90,000 veterans leaving the military annually, the salary gap over 10 years reaches ~$15 billion.

Source: Elizabeth Hastings Roer, Jeffrey B. Wenger, and Jonathan P. Wong, Military-to-civilian occupational matching: Using the O*NET to provide match recommendations for the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, RAND, 2023; Occupational Information Network (O*NET), US Department of Defense; “Veteran Employee Outcomes,” US Census Bureau, accessed Oct 24, 2023.

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To read the article, see “From the military to the workforce: How to leverage veterans’ skills,” November 8, 2023.