Returning to Recession, Veterans Face Especially High Employment Hurdles

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January 16, 2012; Source: Register Guard | Since military veterans risk their lives for their country, one might assume that they at least come home to extensive services to help them rebuild their lives. In some ways, they do. The G.I. bills provide reemployment, training, housing, and other services for all veterans. Such services include targeted state employment programs and nonprofit programs, such as The Veterans in Progress program, federally funded for 18 months and offered through St. Vincent de Paul of Eugene, Ore. Newly enacted federal legislation, the Vow to Hire Heroes Act, includes funding for additional veteran services and tax credits for businesses that hire veterans. Yet, according to the Register Guard’s reporting, many veterans still struggle with securing stable work and housing.

Locally, service providers see demand for services rising and problems cascading as unemployment benefits that first supported returning veterans expire. Nationally, the unemployment rate for veterans is 36 percent higher than the overall average. It’s even worse for young veterans (aged 18–24): one in five is unemployed. One young veteran profiled felt “pathetic” when he couldn’t even get an interview for work at a Pretzel Time franchise. In another case described in the article, job loss originally propelled a young father to join the military so that he could support his family, but the economy’s no better now that he’s returned.

Employers don’t always see how military skills transfer to open positions. Perhaps this is why recently separated service members’ average earnings are $10,000 less per year than non-veterans, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to the nonprofit Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, employers are also wary of hiring veterans because of the destabilizing effect of unprecedented military mobilization rates. An Oregon veteran services coordinator observes that some employers also fear veterans may bring post-traumatic stress disorder or other health issues into the workplace. Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating based on past, present, or future military obligations, but 36 percent of employers surveyed by indicated they were unaware of the law.

How is the influx of returning veterans affecting your community and your nonprofit? Are we doing enough?—Kathi Jaworski