What Veterans May Need More Than a Walmart Job

PHOTO: The North Torrance High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps color guard presents the U.S. flag and California state flag before the grand opening of a new Wal-Mart Stores Inc. location in Torrance, Calif, Sept. 12, 2012.

Walmart's promise to hire any honorably discharged veteran in his or her first 12 months off active duty seems like a noble one, but how good is the pay?

In the U.S., the average wage for a full-time hourly Walmart associate is $12.57, according to the company. That's $26,108 a year at 40 hours a week, or just above the federal poverty level of $23,050 for a family of four.

The median salary for W-1 enlisted military personnel with eight years of experience is $45,528, which is also the "most stressful job for 2013," according to CareerCast.com.

Read more: Top 10 Most Stressful and Least Stressful Jobs of 2013

The basic pay for E-1 active duty soldiers with less than two years of experience starts at around $18,194. That may be lower in the first four months of service, the Army says on its website, but that does not include the free housing, health benefits, or food allowance also offered.

In October 2011, Walmart told employees it was halting health care to part-time employees who work less than 24 hours a week.

Wal-Mart's lowest-cost and most popular associate-only medical plan is $17.40 per two-week pay period in 2013, according to Reuters. Costs for a single non-tobacco-using employee range from that to $59.30 per paycheck.

Wal-Mart pays for preventive care but workers must pay deductibles of at least $1,750 before Wal-Mart covers 80 percent of the cost of other care such as doctor visits and diagnostic tests, according to Reuters.

Walmart has provided coverage for part-time employees since 1996.

Walmart said beginning Memorial Day for the veterans, most of the jobs offered will be in Walmart stores and clubs while others will be in distribution centers and its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

Michael Dakduk, executive director at Student Veterans of America, said initiatives to hire veterans are "absolutely critical given the unemployment rate of military veterans."

"It's commendable, but I would like to see veterans employed and really looking towards long-term success," Dakduk said. "That's why education is absolutely critical. It's not just about being employed but it's about not being underemployed."

Walmart projects it will hire more than 100,000 veterans during the next five years. As the biggest private employer in the U.S., the company has 1.4 million U.S. associates working in 4,601 stores and clubs in the U.S.

"We believe Walmart is already the largest private employer of veterans in the country, and we want to hire more," said Bill Simon, Walmart U.S. president and CEO, in a statement. "I can think of no better group to lead in revitalizing our economy than those who have served in uniform. Through their service, veterans give us a land of freedom. When they return, it must be to a land of possibility."

The company's announcement came alongside news that it will boost spending on products sourced in the U.S. by $50 billion over a decade.

Read more: Walmart to Boost US-Made Products

Simon said he wants company associates "to find career opportunities they want with Walmart."

About 75 percent of store managers started as store associates, according to Randy Hargrove, a spokesman for Walmart.

The average pay for store managers is $50,000 to $170,000 a year, said Hargrove. The highest-paid store manager last year made $250,000.

Some part-timers say they enjoy working at Walmart, but went on strike over the holiday season, saying they aren't able to work more hours or are treated unfairly by the company.

Read more: Walmart, Retailers Boom on Black Friday

"When you're talking about our store associates and rising through the ranks every year, we promote about 170,000 people to jobs with more responsibilities and higher pay," Hargrove said.

The company also said its employee turnover rate in the U.S. is less than the industry trade average: 37.2 percent versus 43.6 percent, respectively.

Walmart said there are 15,000 to 50,000 job postings at the firm, depending on the time of the year.

Dakduk said he hopes corporate America follows Walmart's examples with more high-profile initiatives.

"If someone's unemployed, that's an issue," Dakduk said. "There are a lot of homeless veterans and a lot of veterans that are not employed. It's certainly a step in the right direction, and I think that's important to acknowledge."

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