Putting Our Confidence in OEF/OIF Veterans
Posted by Laura Smith on August 5
The U.S. markets are plunging, the economy is slowing down and there are few signs of a recovery on the horizon. Amid fresh concerns of a double-dip recession, one population is suffering more than most in the job market: Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. While Congress and the President spent July arguing over the debt limit and budget deficit, 232,000 OEF/OIF-era veterans were out of work and looking for jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that 12.4 percent of OEF/OIF-era veterans were unemployed in July, down from 13.3 percent in June, but still 3 percentage points higher than the national average. Nationwide the unemployment rate remained almost the same at 9.1 percent, compared to last month 9.2 percent.
Overall, job growth in the United States has stagnated, with 117,000 nonfarm jobs added during July. This job growth is slightly better than last month’s paltry 46,000 jobs. Yet, the ongoing, nationwide unemployment crisis and seeming inability of the government to work together has led to a loss of market and consumer confidence, as we saw yesterday in the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s calamitous 500 point drop.
But in this time of crisis, America’s newest veterans are armed with the leadership qualities and skills needed to bolster the civilian workforce and pull the economy back from the brink. As they were after World War II, our veterans can be part of the solution and help restore confidence in our economy. Both the public and private sectors have an imperative role to play in helping veterans through this process to translate and transfer their energy and experience into the job market. This morning, IAVA is joining the President to unveil a new veterans jobs initiative-- a "reverse" bootcamp- that calls on the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Labor as well as businesses nationwide to get vets the training and resources necessary to make the leap from combat to career.
OEF/OIF veterans, however, not only have the potential to be great employees but also make great employers. In 2007, 9 percent of businesses in the United States were owned by veterans. Not only do these veteran-business owners hire fellow veterans; they also provide employment opportunities for the other 14 million unemployed Americans who went jobless last month.
Today, at his announcement IAVA applauded President Obama for bringing the issue of veteran unemployment back into public discourse after a month of debt ceiling brinkmanship. Through the administration’s actions, private sector efforts, and Congressional legislation like the Hiring Our Heroes Act and Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act, OEF/OIF veterans will have a fighting chance to get the training and support needed to be successful employees and leaders. IAVA calls on Congress to come back from the August recess ready to move forward on this legislation. But we also call on leaders in the private and public sectors to follow President Obama's lead in raising awareness of veteran unemployment as he is doing today at the Navy Yard in Washington. Companies throughout the United States, like those who participated in June’s Veterans on Wall Street job fair and conference, also have the means and opportunity to hire this newest generation of veterans.
At a moment when America is losing confidence and facing economic uncertainty, it is time to once again put our trust in the men and women who have served in our Armed Forces. Let’s work together to put our veterans in jobs that harness the best of their leadership, training, and dedication to help grow our economy.
Not sure how high veteran unemployment is in your state? Click here to find out and see if your state representatives have signed on to cosponsor the Hiring Heroes and VOW Acts.
Laura Smith is a Summer Research Intern at IAVA in Washington, D.C. She just received her M.A. from the Graduate School of Public & International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. Laura is the proud sister of two Navy officers and the daughter of a Navy veteran. Follow her on Twitter at @LKSinDC.
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