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Veterans Group: Walmart’s Veterans Initiative Is Step in ‘Right Direction’

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- 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.

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.

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 Paul 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.

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.

"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.

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."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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