John Musser thought he was getting a head start by looking for a civilian job “a good year out” from retirement from the Navy.

But even that lead time, he says, proved a little too late.

The saturated job market in the States, coupled with limiting marketability because of long-term military service, contributed to the difficulty the 22-year Navy veteran had in finding a job.

He apparently is not alone.

A congressionally mandated study done for the Department of Veterans Affairs found that military veterans face more challenges in getting civilian jobs, are paid less than civilian peers, and often wield less authority in spite of their career experiences.

Military vets “face more economic and employment issues compared to their peers,” the report stated.

Eighteen percent of military vets surveyed reported being unemployed; and of those who found work, 25 percent earned less than $21,840 a year.

One statistic showed the number of unemployed vets at one point was double their civilian peers.

The average unemployment rate for military vets within two years of separation was 9.5 percent over a 12-year period between 1991 and 2003, compared to 4.3 percent unemployment among non-military peers, the report stated.

Abt Associates Inc., contracted in 2005 by the VA, surveyed 1,941 servicemembers who left active duty between December 2004 and January 2006.

The survey responses were coupled with other studies and census data to form the 2007 Employment Histories Survey report, completed in September.

The “most notable differences in wages,” the report states, were among the separated members who held college degrees.

“Among those with four-year degrees, the average earned wages were significantly less for [vets] as compared to the [matched comparison group] by $9,526.”

Researchers matched peers with like characteristics based on sex, race, educational levels, age and marital status.

Little more than 83 percent of the military respondents had full-time jobs, classified by 35 hours or more a week, the report stated.

All the respondents were between the ages of 17 and 61, with 37.6 percent between ages 21 to 27.

Vets too have to contend with mental and physical disabilities related to their military service.

Of the survey participants, 17.3 percent have a disability rating from the VA, and 28 percent have a disability rating from the Defense Department, the report states.

The report indicated that interviews with those who hired in the private sector “confirmed that RSS (recently separated servicemembers) face certain barriers when transitioning into the workforce.”

While managers cited attributes such as leadership, work ethic, reliability and discipline as positives, they also listed characteristics such as inflexibility, rigidity, lack of higher education and lack of creativity as consequences of military service in finding civilian work.

Musser, 44, started his civilian job hunt while still on active duty in Naples, but found prospective employers wanted face-to-face interviews.

Still, when he returned to the States, he found it no easier to find work.

So, he ended up returning to Naples, where he nabbed a contracting job.

Are you leaving the military and looking for a job? Is the U.S. economic situation influencing your decision to stay in the service? E-mail your story to Stars and Stripes at

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