Competitive gamers from the U.S. and U.K. militaries competed in an annual tournament on Friday to benefit veterans employment.

The Space Force took first place in the Call of Duty Endowment’s second annual video game competition, the C.O.D.E. Bowl, which raised funds primarily through sponsorships from big names like USAA and Ram Trucks. The endowment has not released final numbers, but estimates about $1 million was brought in through the tournament.

And because Call of Duty publisher Activision covers all of the endowments operating costs, all the money raised goes toward its mission, according to the organization.

To date, the Call of Duty Endowment has placed some 77,000 veterans in jobs, according to its head executive. The organization estimates it spends about $499 per veteran to get them employed, or a sixth of what it costs the Labor Department.

This is done “by finding and the highest-performing nonprofits in this space to do this work,” Call of Duty Endowment Executive Director Dan Goldenberg told Military Times during a Twitch livestream on Thursday.

Several years ago, the endowment partnered with financial consulting firm Deloitte to create a methodology to find the highest-performing nonprofits and help them grow, Goldenberg said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the veteran unemployment rate was 6.3 percent in November, up from 5.9 percent the previous month, lower than the national non-veteran unemployment rate of 6.6 percent.

Goldenberg said those numbers are “incredibly unreliable” and were never meant to collect data on veterans employment.

“The situation is actually far, far worse for veterans than is reflected there,” Goldenberg said. “It’s not just about the job, it’s about the quality of the job.”

BLS unemployment numbers come from the survey sent out every month by the U.S. Census based on one question: last week were you paid for work? If you answer yes, you’re counted as fully employed.

Those numbers don’t accurately reflect veterans working in a gig economy or National Guard members who work part time but may not have a job in the civilian world.

“It’s a bogus number,” Goldenberg said. “It doesn’t measure the quality. It doesn’t measure whether you’re making enough to pay the rent.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the endowment has seen a 30 percent increase in veterans seeking work in the third quarter compared with last year, Goldenberg said.

“Veterans are more vulnerable to underemployment than non-veterans,” he said.

About 1 in 3 vets are unemployed, according to a 2017 study conducted by the Call of Duty Endowment and ZipRecruiter.

“Underemployment, that’s the bugaboo we watch,” Goldenberg said. “Don’t put any stock in those BLS veteran unemployment numbers. They’re worthless.”

As for the tournament, the final match brought the Space Force and Royal Air Force to a tie with the decision going to the Space Force.

Are you on Twitch? Follow the Military Times Twitch channel for news, gaming and interviews.

Jared is a freelance journalist, a former Marine and a veterans advocate living in Los Angeles.

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