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“…We knew this was coming…”

March 22, 2009

Last night, we topped off a very busy day with a stroll into our nearby Old Town Plaza, a family on a mission for ice cream. While the kids ran ahead to scooter on the gazebo,  my head just about snapped off as I passed a newspaper stand and saw this headline – in USA TODAY, of all places:

Jobless rate at 11.2% for veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan

11.2%?! 1 in 9 vets are unemployed?! Paul Rieckhoff’s Twitter feed says it all:

New vet unemployment numbers are bad. USA Today has a story. We knew this was coming. Happy friggin Friday–and 6th anniversary of the war.

Some of the facts:

  • The same age group of non-vets has a 8.8% rate of unemployment. 20-24 year old vets reached a rate of 15% in February, compared to 13.8% in the same age group as non-vets.
  • The Army has hit 152% of its re-enlistment goal this year. Backdoor draft anyone?
  • 170,000 vets are unemployed right now…the same number of troops that are deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Irony anyone?

My husband’s civilan job disappeared into the economic abyss while he was deployed to Iraq.  His homecoming, instead of being joyous, was fraught with anxiety over paying our mortgage and buying groceries. Thankfully, he found an employer who understood the skills he brought to the table – skills honed during through his service in the military – but not before we endured two months of unemployment and interviews that ended with a “We’d love to hire you, but…”

This is not always the case, as the article makes clear. Skills are often difficult to translate, civilian contacts are often difficult to cultivate. And, worst of all, but perhaps not surprising, employers are often far from enlightened.

Robert Pearson, 23, of Minneapolis, is a former paratrooper who served in Afghanistan. He says it’s hard to find work as a human resources manager in order to use the skills he learned managing soldiers as a combat team leader.

He says he was shocked when a job-placement worker told him that some employers consider a military record almost like having “a felony.”

“People just frown upon us nowadays, thinking we’re all flying-off-the-handle crazy guys,” says Pearson, who has a bachelor’s degree in business management. “They don’t even give us a chance.”

A military record almost like having a felony? Oy.

Perhaps there’s hope. Last month’s stimulus package  included a $2,400-per-person tax credit for employers who hire unemployed veterans in 2009 and 2010. Did the stimulus package go far enough in its support of veterans? Arguably no, but really, tax credits for employers and money to revamp VA infrastructure are a huge step up from an Administration that paid only lip service to our vets.

Oh, and see here for a list of links related to training, further education and career assistance for veterans.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 22, 2009 9:29 pm

    Along with health care problems and homelessness, this does not bode well for our veterans. It makes me so sad and angry. They serve their country and their country lets them down when they are through. What a tragedy.

    (Awesome inaugural post here at Left Face, btw!)

  2. March 22, 2009 10:02 pm

    Great first post for the blog… well said and thank you for bringing this to the forefront.

  3. LAW permalink
    March 22, 2009 10:37 pm

    Thanks for the post – something to think about – and doesn’t it just PISS you off? I remember when we were Guard – I talked to an HR person who told me flat out – if she had a choice between two equally qualified people, she’d choose the one who was NOT Guard or Reserve. I informed her – pretty loudly- that this was ILLEGAL and disgusting and if I found out that she had EVER done this, I’d report her company to the appropriate authorities. But you know it happened.. you know it.

    LAW

  4. lopsidedmom permalink
    March 22, 2009 10:51 pm

    Great point, LAW. It seems to me that educating Human Resources folks is a good place to start, not only on the legality of discriminating against vets (which I’m sure they do hear about) but more importantly about the benefits of hiring vets.
    I was heartened when my husband was looking for work. He had several interviews where folks did acknowledge the upside of his service…they just were scared to hire him in this economy. He started after the first of the year, so I am glad the folks that took the risk will get the tax benefit.
    (I’m digging the wordpress format BTW…)

  5. FOW permalink
    March 23, 2009 6:05 am

    I’m sure this happens a lot more than we’d like it too but hopefully by shining light on it, it’ll make employers think before they do it again. Great website…I’m looking forward to future posts!

  6. March 23, 2009 12:55 pm

    Great post! I almost spit out my coffee reading that a military record was almost as bad as a felony. Seriously?!? What about all that Support our Troops crap flying around all the time. You can slap a magnet on your car but you won’t hire a well qualified person that was off fighting a war and serving his country? Give me a break.

    I can say that the economy definitly IS helping recruiting. It makes the military and the thought of a very steady paycheck hard to pass up.

  7. March 24, 2009 5:43 pm

    As bad as a felony??? Seriously?

    I wonder how much that thinking varies from job sector to sector and how much it varies when you go to an area with little military people around? It shouldn’t be thought of that way anywhere but it’s an uphill battle when fighting stereotypes.

    NAIH – NO kidding! The support of the troops being shown by a magnet is disgusting.

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