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Research Questions

  1. What are the unemployment experiences of ex–service members compared with those of civilians in terms of access to benefits, unemployment duration, and wage demands?
  2. How could the UCX system be improved, or altered to improve access or knowledge about the UCX system for ex–service members?

Drawing from a unique administrative data set with audited unemployment compensation for ex–service members (UCX) and unemployment insurance (UI) claims from 2002 to 2012, this report provides a first portrait of the job search process of ex–service members relative to that for civilians. Overall, the claim data offer a portrait of a job search process that appears to be working for ex–service members in many ways, with this population making greater use of employment tools such as job referrals and training than civilians. We find that ex–service members delay filing for benefits as compared with similar civilians, although many ex–service members are made aware of their potential benefits as part of the Soldier for Life/Transition Assistance Program. Also, ex–service members had nearly identical durations of unemployment compared with civilian UI claimants. The data also suggest a number of opportunities for improving existing federal transition programs. Efforts to reduce the delay between separation and access of benefits may help ex–service members engage in the job search process more quickly, and ensuring that ex–service members have ready access to online registration tools might facilitate that process. Our data also suggest that ex–service members have different preferences from civilians about occupational mix and compensation that should be considered in designing transition programs. One way of accommodating these preferences would be to give service members better information about how their skills map onto civilian jobs and how best to describe these skills to potential employers.

Key Findings

Overall, the Job Search Process Seems to be Working for Ex–Service Members in Many Ways

  • Ex–service members had nearly identical durations of unemployment compared with civilian UI claimants, in a comparison of results for similarly situated (age- and education-adjusted) groups.
  • Ex–service members delay filing for benefits as compared with similar civilians, although many ex–service members are made aware of their potential benefits as part of the Soldier for Life/Transition Assistance Program.
  • The UCX program appears to be doing a good job of providing cash assistance to former service members during their transition to civilian work; much of the recent increase in costs is not because of unexpectedly long unemployment durations for ex–service members.

Recommendations

  • Provide guidance to veterans about the wages they should be willing to accept.
  • Use the TAP to promote quicker transitions into the unemployment system.
  • Conduct further research on the outcomes of ex–service members when they leave the UCX program.
  • Reduce the delay in claiming UCX benefits and provide faster access to employment services.
  • Consider incorporating a short seminar in TAP for educating ex–service members about how to apply for UCX and utilize employment services.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Aggregate Differences in Unemployment Claiming Patterns Between Ex–Service Members and Civilians

  • Chapter Three

    Exploring Hypothesis 5: Differences in Job Search Dynamics and Strategies

  • Chapter Four

    Conclusions, Policy Implications, and Future Research

  • Appendix

    Regression Estimates

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense–Personnel and Readiness (OSD-P&R) and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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