The national recession that put millions of Americans out of work and the U.S. unemployment rate at 9 percent has hit one group harder than most—veterans.
From 2008 to 2011, veterans' unemployment rose 5.1 percentage points, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The civilian unemployment rate rose approximately 2.5 percentage points in that period.
An October 2010 U.S. Department of Labor report shows that unemployment tops 20 percent among 18- to 24-year-old veterans, compared with a national rate of about 9 percent.
The situation is expected to worsen after 10,000 servicemen and servicewomen return from Afghanistan and 46,000 come home from Iraq by year's end.
While veterans can face numerous obstacles as they make the transition from military to civilian life, Morris County social work professionals say the lack of jobs has an impact on their ability to deal with the other stresses they and their families face.
“The lack of a job is the No. 1complaint,” said Jack McFadden, a social worker for Family Service of Morris County who works with veterans and their families.
This week, Patch takes a look at the lives of Morris County's service members and veterans, for our special report, Morris and the Military.
McFadden said he was at a recent veterans services event in Newark attended by 150 to 200 veterans.
“I asked them what they wanted to talk about, and most said the lack of jobs,” McFadden said. “They were mostly young soldiers and were saying. ‘We went to war and now I can’t pay my rent.’ Many of them were talking about re-enlisting as the way out of it.”
Social worker Sylvia Lippe said that while veterans face many readjustment issues, especially within the home, the lack of jobs heightens the potential tensions.
In New Jersey, she said, where nearly half the troops who served in the Gulf wars were military reservists or with the New Jersey National Guard, the recession created another issue.
“For reservists, their jobs might not be waiting, especially after multiple deployments,” Lippe said. “In this economy, jobs were lost and businesses were sold or closed.”
In 2010, a survey of New Jersey Army National Guard members showed that 18 percent of the 3,000 New Jersey troops called up that year were out of work.
The poll, conducted by Command Sgt Maj. Tom Clark of the Second Battalion, 113th Infantry, indicated that Guard members had been especially affected because the statewide unit was called to active duty in Iraq just as the national recession took hold in September 2008.
A large concern, said John Franklin, chief executive officer of the United Way of Northern New Jersey, is that many returning veterans fall into the group of Morris County residents earning $20,000 to $60,000 annually. A United Way study of this group showed that both civilian and military families within that income range struggle to get ahead and can be subject to economic setbacks related to higher costs for housing, sudden illness or accidents, or changes in employment.
The stress of having one parent on a military deployment can add to a family’s financial uncertainty, Franklin said.
A 2010 survey sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service indicated the extent of the unemployment problem faced by veterans, especially young veterans.
The data showed male veterans ages 18 to 24 who served during Gulf War era II (post-Sept. 11, 2001) had an unemployment rate of 21.9 percent in 2010.
For female veterans of all ages who served during that period, the unemployment rate was 12 percent.
For comparison, the survey showed that for men who served in World War II, Korea or Vietnam, the unemployment rate averaged 8.4 percent. For women who served in those wars, the rate averaged 5.5 percent.
They survey also showed that the 2010 unemployment rates for veterans with higher levels of education were lower than for those with less education.
About one-third of the men in both groups worked in management and professional occupations, a higher proportion than in any other major occupational group. Among women, 44 percent of Gulf War-era II veterans were employed in management and professional occupations, the survey said.
Lippe said a factor for younger Gulf War era II veterans is a lack of training and job skills. Many of the solders in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past decade joined the military services from high school or before they entered the civilian workforce.
In response to the issue, the federal government and business organization have offered pledges and laws to spur the hiring of veterans
The “VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011,” signed into law by President Obama, expands education and training opportunities for older veterans by providing nearly 100,000 unemployed veterans of past eras and wars with up to one-year of additional benefits to go towards education or training programs at community colleges or technical schools for high-demand jobs.
The law also makes available mandatory workshops in resume writing and career counseling for service veterans moving to civilian life. The law also provides disabled veterans up to one year of additional vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits.
The legislation provides a tax credit of up to $5,600 for hiring veterans who have been looking for a job for more than six months, as well as a $2,400 credit for veterans who are unemployed for more than four weeks, but less than six months.
A credit up to $9,600 for hiring veterans is also available to employers who hire veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than six months, and the law strengthens the protections for members of the National Guard and Reserve in the workforce to minimize hostile work environments.
An example of the private sector effort is the American Logistics Association pledge to hire 25,000 veterans within two years. The association is comprised of 270 large U.S. corporations.