Pages 513-523 | Received 08 Aug 2016, Accepted 27 Jul 2017, Published online: 20 Mar 2018
American military veterans are nearly twice as likely to be self-employed compared with nonveterans and are majority owners in 9% of all businesses nationwide. Despite their contribution to the broader economy and the potential for training programs to cultivate and foster successful self-employment and veteran-lead entrepreneurial ventures, research on veteran entrepreneurs remains limited. To gain a better understanding of the potential strengths and vulnerabilities of veteran entrepreneurs, the current study utilized data from a large, nationally representative sample to profile self-employed veterans (n = 230) and compare them with veterans who work as employees (n = 1,055) with respect to demographic, military service history, and psychosocial characteristics. Results indicated that self-employed veterans were older and more educated and more likely to utilize U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) health care. Self-employed veterans were more likely to serve in Vietnam and to serve in the military for fewer years. No differences were noted in perceived military experience, level of combat exposure, or military branch served as a function of self-employment. Although reporting more lifetime traumas, self-employed veterans did not experience higher rates of current or lifetime psychopathology or lower perceived quality of life. Potential protective resilience-promoting factors may be associated with the higher levels of openness, extraversion, optimism, achievement-orientation (purpose in life), and greater need for autonomy and professional development observed among self-employed veterans. Moreover, self-employed veterans demonstrated higher levels of gratitude, community integration, and altruistic service to others. Findings have potential to inform human resources management strategies and vocational training and reintegration initiatives for veterans.
This study evaluated entrepreneurship among American military veterans and found that self-employed veterans, an important yet understudied subset of the U.S. economy, were older, more educated, served fewer years in the military, endured more lifetime traumas, and demonstrated evidence of psychological resilience when compared with veterans working as employees. Findings suggest the need for future research on strengths and vulnerabilities of veteran entrepreneurs and can inform veteran human resources services programs that support self-employment among veterans, such as reintegration vocational counseling and training programs.
National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and Center for Innovation to Implementation, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Menlo Park, California.