For returning veterans, the recent employment news is encouraging. In October, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that veteran unemployment fell to 3.9 percent, a seven-year low. Recently returned veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan fared less well; 4.6 percent could not find employment.
While these statistics are heartening, BLS data for veterans is misleadingly calculated the same way as it is for the general population: those who are unemployed and haven’t looked for a job during the last four weeks are not counted by the Labor Department as unemployed. And many of the economy’s jobs are part-time and don’t generate enough income to sustain a family or to transition into the middle class.
|Among recent veterans, the suicide rate was 50 percent higher
than for nonmilitary civilians, according to a report this year.
Photo: Los Angeles Times
Employed or not, veterans returning to civilian life face many challenges. Too often, the hurdles to successful re-entry are overwhelming. Recent veterans have committed suicide at a much higher rate than people who never served in the military, according to experts at the National Institute of Mental Health. For veterans, as well as all Americans, getting and keeping a job is crucial to emotional well-being. Many academic studies show that people who can’t find jobs sink into depression, lose friends and eventually lose self-respect. Veterans battling post-traumatic syndrome are more susceptible to despair than others. At a time when veterans’ mental health care services are in chaos, the routine of a daily job and the income it generates is crucial.
Good jobs are increasingly scarce, and the competition for them has intensified during the Obama administration. According to data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, during the six-year span from 2009 to 2014, the administration issued 7.4 million more work permits than Congressionally set limits allow. Veterans have to compete on equal footing with the 7.4 million who got work permits through Obama’s largesse, not because they are legally entitled to them.
The Capitol Hill buzz may mean more bad news for vets. Pressure from the United Nations on the State Department is intensifying to admit 10,000 or more Syrian refugees who would be instantly work authorized. Many Syrians as well as refugees from other nations are already living and working in the United States.
President Obama and Congress owe veterans a fair shake. Adding millions of legal and illegal work-authorized immigrants to a depressed labor market is disrespectful to military personnel who served with honor, and have more than earned the right to secure good jobs.