Beer Company Helps to Battle Veteran Unemployment

They put their lives on the line to protect us, but that doesn't mean America's finest always get what they deserve. Military service members often come home from duty and struggle to find a job, let alone one they're happy with.

Chicago-based Veteran Beer Company has a mission to not only create great beer, but also change the way employers view vets all over the country.

Marc Blue is one veteran who had difficulties getting hired. He was an Army Officer and toured overseas in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He came back from deployment in June of 2012 and "did what everyone else did," try to get a job.

All attempts were unsuccessful and he was without a job for 18 months, despite having a Bachelor's degree and leadership and management skills he gained in service, then he heard about Veteran Beer Company.

"I'm like okay, I'll give my resume, I'll see what happens and sure enough, without any questions asked, they're like, 'Marc you're on,'" he said.

He's now one of five full-time and 44 part-time employees of the B Corp. or Benefit Corporation founded on the mission to hire vets like him. Benefit Corporations like their company as well as Ben and Jerry's and Newman's Own are structured as a for-profit company with a focus on a mission. In this case, when enough money to hire another employee is made, another veteran employee must be hired and 10% of all profits also go to charities that support the veteran community in the areas they serve. Also, the company is 100% owned and operated by military veterans.

"We want to have an immediate and local impact everywhere we are," said Founder and CEO Paul Jenkins.

A Navy vet himself, Jenkins founded the company back in 2012 when veteran unemployment was about three times the national average and the rate of unemployment for disabled vets was at 88%.

"I know that eventually politicians will fix the problem, they'll come up with a solution," he said, "but in the meantime, we learn that veterans were dying at their own hand, 22 a day committing suicide."

He said it's important that veterans feel valued when they return from duty.

"If we get to a point in America where it is a disadvantage in the workforce where military service hurts your chance of getting outside employment, it won't take long for young people to figure out why would I want to join the military? Why would I want to put myself in harms way? Why would I want to get hurt and if I did none of that, I would have a better chance of getting a job at home," Jenkins said. "We have to ensure that veterans are at least on a level playing field with everyone else."

Blue said the company's mission makes every day's work worth it.

"To me it's not a job with what we're trying to accomplish,"he said. "Going to work everyday is not a chore for me, so it's great."

The company launched their beers first in Illinois and Indiana in November. Starting Tuesday, the company is expanding their award-winning Blonde Bomber Ale and The Veteran Lager to Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. In a few weeks, Michigan will also have the products throughout the state.

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