Uber launched its project for veterans, UberMilitary, after senior vice president Emil Michael spent stints in public service as a White House fellow and as an aide to then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates. After seeing how difficult it was for some veterans to find jobs upon leaving the armed forces, Michael said, he saw how Uber could fill a need.
"The thing that was missing was an income-earning opportunity that was extremely flexible," Michael said. "When you come back, maybe you're studying for your next degree, maybe you have medical issues."
The jobless rate for veterans of America's most recent wars stands at nearly 6 percent, according to the most recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By comparison, the current overall unemployment rate is at 5 percent.
For Robert Isaac Jr., joining Uber was a way to pay for his education. A former Marine who served in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, Isaac started driving in 2014 to pay for a full-time course in user experience design at a coding school, which cost about $10,000. He's now looking for jobs in the mobile technology industry.
"Right now, I can actually find a place that's a good fit for myself," he said, "and not just take the first thing that's available."
Uber will be making its donation on behalf of former military officials including Gates, Gen. James Mattis and Adm. Mike Mullen — all of whom sit on the advisory board for Uber's veterans program, UberMilitary.
Uber said its next goal will be to pay out $500 million to its veteran drivers by 2020. It's also expanding its reach onto military bases, seeking to partner with base commanders and attempting to offer drivers more money for starting or ending their rides at a base.
"In some ways, this is a passion project for me," Michael said. "But it's also good for business."