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What is Co-Managed Care for Veterans?

Veteran Unemployment: A Stubborn Problem Persists


A recent survey by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics had some discouraging findings for military members and veterans: The unemployment rate for those of us who served on active duty at any time since September 2001was 12.1 percent, compared to the 8.3 percent unemployment rate among all veterans – a figure that roughly paralleled the 2011 unemployment rate as a whole. (As of May 4, 2011, the BLS had just reported a U3 unemployment rate of 8.1 percent – down from 8.3 percent, largely due to hundreds of thousands of workers giving up the job hunt.)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics extrapolated those rates from a detailed survey of 60,000 households across the United States.

Among young male veterans – those War on Terror era veterans below age 25 – the unemployment rate was devastating: 29.1 percent of them – nearly three in every ten job seekers, were unemployed. This rate is substantially higher than the general rate of unemployment among non-veterans of the same age. These are largely Reservists and National Guardsmen who have been mobilized at least once, as those who enlisted into the active duty components on six-year hitches will still be employed, unless sooner discharged.

The higher unemployment rate among young veterans underscores the disruption in civilian careers that these troops experience, and may indicate evidence of pervasive discrimination against reserve component service members among employers.

Nevertheless, post-9/11 veterans who were current or past Reserve or National Guard members have an unemployment rate of 9 percent, according to the BLS – slightly higher than the national average. This is despite the fact that these organizations often hire their own part-timers on active duty special work status, which should theoretically reduce the unemployment rate, since these members would not be unemployed while on ADSW orders, TDY, Active Duty for Training or similar temporary assignments.

A Growing Public Perception Problem

In addition to the employment statistics, we do have some anecdotal evidence that negative stereotypes about combat veterans are becoming more pervasive among the general public. For example, popular TV talk show host and psychology professional Dr. Phil recently aired a show called “From Heroes to Monsters,” in which he referred to veterans struggling with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as “damaged goods” who destroyed marriages and families. (Dr. Phil has since issued an apology and changed the name of the episode to “Heroes in Pain”.)

Additionally, a Democratic state legislator from Louisiana, Representative Stephen Ortego (District 39), expressed reluctance regarding a proposal to extend in-state tuition rates to nonresident armed forces veterans on the State House Floor in April, asking “Why do we want to attract veterans?...They have a lot of issues.”

Go Directly To Public Employment

War on terror era veterans are vastly more likely to work for government than are non-veterans. 14 percent of employed post-9/11 veterans work for the federal government, compared with just 2 percent of the non-veteran workforce. 27 percent of post-9/11 veterans – over one in four – work for the public sector. This is, in part, due to the civil service exam advantages of veteran status, but also due to self-selection bias – veterans have worked for the government in the past, and are more likely to apply for government positions in the future.

Employed disabled veterans are especially likely to work for government post-discharge: One out of every three disabled veterans in the work force worked for the government as of the end of 2011, compared to one out of every five of their non-disabled veteran peers.

Labor Force Participation Rate

The labor force participation rate – the percentage of people who are actually either working or actively looking for work – is 83.5 percent among post-9/11 era veterans. In contrast, the labor force participation rate nationwide, among all residents, was 63.6 percent, as of May 4th, 2012 – a 30 year low. It was 64 percent as of the end of 2011. So veterans are more active in the job hunt than their non-veteran counterparts, by far.

Programs Are in Place to Help

There are several programs aimed at helping veterans find employment. Hiring Our Heroes is a U.S. Chamber of Commerce program developed to help military spouses and veterans. Hire Heroes USA is a civilian non-profit organization that provides a multitude of employment-related services for veterans and their spouses. In addition, veterans can opt to use educational programs like the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program to improve their education and increase their chances of being hired for a better paying job in the future.

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