By Douglas Fehlen
Veterans Hit Hard by Economic Downturn
Virtually everyone in the United States has been affected by the difficult economic circumstances of the past few years, not least those who are without work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the current rate of unemployment in the country stands at 9.1%. But while that national average is dramatically high, joblessness has affected select groups of people at especially high rates.
Among those most severely affected by the stagnant economy are veterans of the U.S. military. It's estimated that about one million veterans are currently employed. One figure helps to put into context just how badly vets are affected by joblessness relative to the general population: Among individuals who joined the military after the September 11th terror attacks there is an unemployment rate of 13.3%.
Aiding Unemployed Vets
Last month, President Obama laid out a plan to help address joblessness among service veterans. Designed to help hundreds of thousands of U.S. military vets get back to work, the plan calls for creating additional training opportunities. A shared initiative of the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs will allow military personnel to attend a 'reverse boot camp' meant to help them transition from the U.S. Armed Forces to civilian jobs. The president also announced a White House-led effort to get private companies to train or hire 100,000 veterans (or military spouses) in the next two years. Additionally, the Department of Labor will roll out a 'career-development and job-search service package' for veterans looking for work.
As part of the plan, companies hiring veterans would receive a 'Returning Heroes' tax credit of up to $2,400. This credit would double to $4,800 in the event a hired veteran had been out of work for six months or more. The 'Wounded Warriors' tax credit program would also be extended. Under the program, firms hiring a veteran with a service-related disability receive a $4,800 tax credit. That credit doubles to $9,600 if the veteran has been unemployed for six months or more.
Getting Veterans Back to Work
While numerous government initiatives have been directed toward aiding veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military personnel returning home from oversees can experience significant difficulties entering the civilian workforce. Among the most significant challenges: Many veterans have worked - and are often seeking employment - in construction, manufacturing, mining and other industries particularly affected by the economic downturn. The training programs outlined by the president are intended in part to provide veterans with new skills they can use to succeed in the private sector.
Underlying President Obama's plan, however, is a firm belief that aptitudes and skills valuable toward military service can also help individuals to succeed in the civilian workforce. 'If you can save a life in Afghanistan,' the president remarked at the Washington Navy Yard last month, 'you can save a life in an ambulance in Wyoming. If you can oversee millions of dollars of assets in Iraq, you can help a business balance its books here at home.'
Initiatives benefiting U.S. service members are not only being implemented at the national level. Learn about a Washington State law that allows companies to extend hiring preference to veterans over those without military experience.