Unemployment worries weigh heavily on veterans

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

(RICHMOND, VA) — Even though unemployment has declined in the last year in much of the country, veterans across the state of Virginia still worry about jobs, in particular for those who have recently come back from duty or are soon to be returning troops.

“A lot of people worry about work,” Thomas Pittsley, commander of American Legion Post 148 in Colonial Beach, Virginia, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “You worry about the veterans that are coming back, where are they going to work? Because there’s no work.”

Virginia’s unemployment rate of 5.9 percent is significantly lower than the national average of 7.8 percent that was reported in September. However, some still remain concerned about so many veterans returning to poor economic conditions after their tour of duty.

Last year, Virginia had an unemployment rate 6.2 percent for post-9/11 veterans.

“Personally, I don’t think there’s enough focus out there on hiring veterans, if there were people would be working,” said Eddie Humes, commander of American Legion Post 188 in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Though, Humes says the unemployment problem is  currently not bad for veterans in his area, he worries about troops returning home war zones like Afghanistan.

The unemployment rate among veterans was 9.7 percent among veterans who served as active duty military after the September 11, 2001 attacks, higher than the 6.7 percent unemployment rate for veterans in general and nearly 2 percentage points higher the population at large.

“We’ve got to do something for employment here,” Humes said. “You cut the number of troops, if they do, we got to have something for them to do. We’re really worried about that.”

“Vets’ unemployment is two percentage points higher than the population [at-large]. Why is that? that shouldn’t be the case,” Pete Hegseth, CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, a domestic policy advocate for veterans, told a crowd at an American Legion post in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Concerned Veterans for America launched their east coast RV tour on Saturday, heading down the coast from Virginia to highlight a wide range of issues affecting today’s veterans, including high unemployment.

“Ultimately you’ve got to bring back economic growth, there have got to be jobs there for them to have,” Hegseth added. “If we don’t have pro-growth policies that actually grow our economy, these jobs aren’t coming back.”

Some companies have made a concerted effort in recent times to hire veterans. According to the Wall Street Journal, seventy-six companies, including J.P. Morgan Chase and Lockheed Martin set a hiring goal of 100,000 veterans by 2020, and the coalition of companies said it has hired 28,186 as of September 30.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also held about 300 Hiring Our Heroes job fairs across the country. So far, the chamber says, where more than 10,000 veterans and their spouses have found employment.

“When we take applications we look for veteran status,” said Humes. “Make people aware, make small businesses aware. These people need work, they’re getting ready to come home.”

“Most of the active duty, they’re concerned,” said Mark Meier, American Legion commander for post 10 in Manassas, Virginia, referring to concern over a wider range of issues including defense sequestration.

“They’re looking at this election closely,” Meier added. “They really are. Let’s hope they get out there and are able to voice their opinion as well.”

“Everybody here is concerned,” Meier concluded. “There isn’t a day that goes by at this post, that politics is talked, that the situation of the country is talked about. Everyday I come in here and there is something being said about the country. It’s on everybody’s mind.”

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