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Vets unemployment higher than non-vets, study says

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Veterans of America's post-Sept. 11 wars have a higher unemployment rate than the general population, a problem that has persisted since the depths of the recession, according to a congressional report released today.

The unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans is 10.9 percent, compared to 8.5 percent unemployment overall. Among all veterans the unemployment rate is 7.7 percent, according to the report. Nearly 2.5 million people left the armed forces since September 2001, according to the report.

"We've got a lot more work to do to make sure people can find work today, tomorrow and in the future," said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Scranton. Casey, who spoke today at Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania`s workforce development center in Lawrenceville, is chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, a bicameral committee charged with studying the economy, which issued the report. "We can, and I have no doubt we will."

Higher-than-average numbers of post-9/11 veterans were employed in industries that were especially hard-hit by the recession, according to the report. Those include mining, construction and manufacturing, among other fields.

Federal, state and local guidelines giving hiring preference to veterans bolstered their employment numbers. About 30 percent of recent veterans work in the public sector, compared to 14.8 percent of nonveterans, the report found.

But that might not last. Budget cuts "and a slowdown in hiring by state and local governments could adversely affect veterans' employment in the future," according to the report.

"Cutting or eliminating essential programs for veterans in the name of deficit reduction would be a disservice to men and women who have made great sacrifices in defense of our country, and a disservice to the nation," the report stated.

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would have veterans take part in the Department of Labor's Transition Assistance Program, designed to help them translate skills learned in the military into civilian jobs. The same bill, the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, would start a government study of which civilian jobs most closely match those in the military.

As post-9/11 veterans entered the VA health care system in greater numbers, study of their conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, had a ripple effect through the rest of the veteran population. Detection and treatment of the disorder improved, resulting in a three-fold increase in the number of Vietnam-era veterans diagnosed with PTSD between 1999 and 2010, according to the report.

Combined with their age, Vietnam-era veterans' disabilities pushed them out of the workforce in greater numbers than nonveteran counterparts, the report found.

It "may be a harbinger of future labor force problems for recent veterans," the report said.




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