U.S. Soldiers Return Home To A Land With Limited Job Opportunities

U.S. SoldiersBy Alexandra Alper

NEW YORK -- Army Officer Donna Bachler hasn't had a regular paycheck since she left active duty four years ago, even though she boasts the kind of skills employers vie for.

Bachler, 30, helped run the U.S. Army's postal service in Kuwait, tackling challenges such as how to crack down on mailed contraband and speeding the flow of mail to troops.

Now back in the United States, she gets by on her husband's salary, which will be cut by more than half when he retires from the military as soon as next year.

"One of the ways I sold (military service) to myself and my parents is 'it looks good on a resume,''' said Bachler, who estimates she has applied for at least 1,000 jobs since 2007. ''Sadly, it doesn't.''

As U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, tens of thousands of veterans are flooding the job market at a time when millions of civilians can't find jobs.

In June, unemployment among recent veterans grew to 13.3 percent, more than 4 percentage points higher than the national average.

From 2008 to 2010, that rate rose from 7.3 percent to 11.5 percent, and it's expected to climb further as more troops come home this year -- 10,000 from Afghanistan and, unless Iraq requests some to stay, the remaining 46,000 from that country.

"There is a sense of abandonment,'' said Daniel Nichols, former chief of staff for the Labor Department's Veteran Employment and Training Services (VETS). He is now director of Military to Medicine, which trains veterans and their spouses for jobs in healthcare.

'Served My Country'

Veterans, he said, think: "I served my country and provided all this, and come back and what do I have now? Maybe a lot of bad memories that I don't want and skills that nobody recognizes.''

With veterans' unemployment rising, President Barack Obama is scheduled Friday to visit Washington's Navy Yard to announce initiatives to prepare vets for civilian jobs.

In the tight job market, recent veterans say that they're passed over for jobs not because they are unqualified, but because they lack required credentials, a formal education or a way to describe their military skills that employers understand.

"I compare myself to civilians I know and I have had leadership opportunities -- making the hard choice -- that I don't see in my civilian counterparts,'' said David Nawrocki, a 30-year-old staff sergeant.

He ran an ammunition supply point in Afghanistan and, as a logistics coordinator in Washington, worked out ways to save the Army more than $1 million earlier this year.

"I don't know how to translate it into civilian terms,'' said Nawrocki, who joined the Army at 17 and hasn't finished college.

He has applied for 800 jobs since February and has had just one interview. His Army job in Washington ended this summer.

More than a dozen government programs aim to tackle veteran unemployment through job search courses, career centers, hiring fairs and grants for states and local agencies.

But many former servicemen say what they really need is a waiver from the often lengthy training process required to get jobs for which they are already effectively qualified.

The GI bill and some Pentagon programs will reimburse vets for training and certification exams, but the training itself can last weeks to several years.

"They tell us, 'we give you training you can use in the real world,''' said Bachler. "Really? It's real world training but the real world won't take it.''

According to the Defense Department, 88 percent of military jobs have "direct civilian counterparts.'' But most states require veterans to retrain before they can take similar civilian positions.

According to the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, paramedic training takes about 18 months. Air traffic controllers must retrain for one to two months according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

"They come back from doing 24/7 medic work and can't even drive an ambulance,'' said Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat who is chairwoman of the Veteran Affairs Committee.

Bills In Congress

Murray proposed a bill in May to ease licensing requirements for veterans in five military jobs with civilian equivalents. U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller proposed another, which focuses on five to 10 positions.

Nichols, the former chief of staff at VETS, is skeptical.

"They have studied those 10 MOS's since I was in there 10 years ago,'' said Nichols, using the acronym for "military occupational specialty.''

One of the biggest hurdles to helping veterans is the abundance of government agencies that aim to do it, he said. Three federal departments handle veterans' issues, and states set most of their own licensing requirements.

But six states have passed laws making it easier for veterans to get licenses, according to the House of Representatives Veterans Affairs Committee.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis says her department is doing its part.

"We're committed to doing all that we can to help returning service members navigate their way through the difficult transition into the civilian work force,'' she said in an email.

She pointed to a new Labor program offering free certification training for young veterans. The Veterans Affairs and Defense departments offer others.

But the Pentagon acknowledges that it needs to do more.

Ed Kringer, director of the Pentagon's State Liaison & Educational Opportunity Office, says the department is conducting a "wholesale review'' of employment for people leaving the military.

"We have heard the concerns and are actively engaged in addressing them,'' Kringer said.

Bachler thinks that the U.S. military should give civilian licensing tests to all recruits at the close of training, as the British Armed Forces do.

In Virginia, a frustrated Sergeant Nawrocki is starting an online training course in logistics -- even though he has 13 years' experience.

"I know I can do the job, but I know employers don't understand that and want to see the certification,'' he said.

(Editing by Warren Strobel and Vicki Allen.)

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Bruce Barron

Obama--That's too bad and tough luck.You have stayed in the military and gotten killed.

August 22 2011 at 12:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hey Joey!

I'm a Navy veteran. I've served 8 years (both active and reserve) from 2002 to 2010. One of the reasons why I've served was to learn a new skill and make a better life for myself in the real world. One of things that was always mentioned to me is that companies always want military vets, or it will look good on a resume. I've applied for so many mechanical maintenance jobs, and was lucky just to get an interview. Sometimes I regret going into the miltary because I felt I've come home with nothing to show for it. I've worked on diesel engines and heavy equipment, but they said I can't work. I've worked on automobiles, but I can't work. I've worked on hydraulic systems, pnuematic systems, lubrication systems, retraction and conveyor systems, but its not enough. I've lead maintenance crews, was a quality assurance inspector, even lead a team through combat situations, but they told me I can't be a manager and that I don't know anything about handling pressure. The only pressure I can't handle is not getting a job that I know I'm more capable of. Now, I'm stuck going to school basically redoing everything that I've already learn, just so I can at least get my foot in the door. What a joke! Well like they say...it's not what you do anymore, it's who you know. You're welcome, America!

August 21 2011 at 5:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cassaundra StJohn

Female Veterans face an even more grime outlook-if we wait on the government to do the job-which we ARE NOT! Female Veterans are 4x more likely to end up homeless than another woman-that is why F7 GROUP exists. I am an Army Brat, former spouse of a military person an an Air Force Veteran myself. I -all to well-understand what it is like to have to scrap inn order to survive after having honorably served my country! This organization is about creating a bridge, a framework, a network of resources, training, support and mentoring that will change this plight! www.f7group.com

August 07 2011 at 2:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Cassaundra StJohn's comment

God Bless you Cassaundra. I know too well what you face. My husband, after 30 years, was told he did not have enough experience in the Federal Service to qualify for the position he had just filled for over two years. The hired a civilian with 10 years service and non in the position he had held.

Yes, women are bearing the brunt of the no hire syndrome. It is horrible that our men and women are being faced with this. However, it is not the first time in our history, unfortunately. I know there are groups with the VFW; Wounded Warriors and Special Ops that are helping families. I will pass on your group that you mentioned.

August 14 2011 at 11:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Maybe a few of you all should read a little more instead of resorting to bashing the President. "On Friday, President Obama announced his plan to provide incentives to businesses as part of an effort to put returning service men and women back to work in the private sector." What did your beloved Bush do for our Veterans? If I can remember clearly NOTHING...but he did give those oil companies billions in tax breaks. Its a good thing you can now use our GI Bill because it seems a few of you all desperately need it. Too bad it doesn't pay for classes that address stupidity.

August 06 2011 at 8:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My husband received a Bronze and Silver Star and can not find a job. There are no jobs and can one person tell me what this President OBAMA's job plans are? He has none. The solution is to infact drop all the tax rules and paperwork for small and mid sized companies, cut back on governments salaries including his and scrap his next recession initative his medical plan. Next year is a depression if we do not.

August 06 2011 at 7:48 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

My husband has been out of the Marines since January this year and has been looking for jobs in the law enforcement since he's been out. When he got in the Marines, they talk about opportunity and a chance to earn a skill. But because his MOS was 0311 (infantry), the only skills besides tactical and weapons skills, leadership was the only skill that can be applied in the "real world", he didn't have time to earn a degree while enlisted because he was training every other year for deployments every other year.

Now that he's out, he's been trying to get in the police force, border patrol, sheriff's dept. you name it and all he can get is the hunting dept. at a sports store, working part time, but almost enough hours to be full time. If he was full time he could get insurance from his co. but they won't give him the upgraded status. Both my children are on Medicaid, we make too much for myself to qualify and denied food stamps.
BUT people who abuse the system get $500 worth of foodstamps and we supposedly make too much $$ (but he only earns about $800-$900/m from his pt work and $800 from unemployment and yes, he can get both since his status is pt.)

It's been so hard for us that he's contemplating joining the Army because the Marines won't take him back even if he got out with goodstandings.. They don't help servicemembers prepare for the civilian workforce which make a person who's whole life revolved around the military upside down.

It's not about Vets getting first dibs, but a fighting chance to have a future.

August 06 2011 at 5:26 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Thats because obama values a illegal alien who is taking the jobs over a Veteran. It's not right but, big business money talks and obama wants the hispanic vote. He can care less about the veterans unless it's for votes. Next election tell him what you think of this.

August 06 2011 at 12:22 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Thrift Store

Hey Vets you voted for Obama the job killing president so deal with it

August 05 2011 at 11:34 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Thrift Store's comment

Maybe you better poll them dont think alot of them voted for Obama.Thats why alot of them keep going back no jobs here guess his JOB CZAR HEAD GE is to busy across the pond.

August 05 2011 at 11:54 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I did not vote for him nor did I vote for half the Tea Party that allowed for the passage last deficit bill. Cowards too. The Tea party memeber that stood agains passage were correct and just yesterday S&P downgraded the us to AA like Spain now. If we all do not get this man and his smooth talking dumb stimulus out of the country soon we are heading for a depression hext year.

August 06 2011 at 7:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Eloyd Torres

My dad was a ww2 vet, my 3 uncels in korea 1950 to1953, I had 3 brothers in NAM 1967 to 1970. I My self
served in 1975. I have a nepew 21 years and still in. I am A mesican!

August 05 2011 at 11:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

ms,felicanoramos.. ms.illegal alien youand the hordes should sneak into messico and see if youcan get wlfare and food stamps. thats why you are here.

August 05 2011 at 10:09 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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