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Unemployment up for post-2001 veterans


Air Force Times - June 1, 2012 - by Rick Maze

Amid announcements that the federal government is launching new initiatives to help veterans find jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the unemployment rate for Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans jumped to 12.7 percent in May, up from 9.2 percent the previous month.

The May jobless rate for veterans separated from the military since 2001 compares to a national unemployment rate of 8.2 percent, a jump of 1/10th of one percentage point and the first increase in 11 months.

The unemployment rate for veterans of all generations rose to 7.8 percent, a change of 7/10ths of one percentage point.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks employment, reports an overall net increase of just 69,000 jobs in May, with 48 percent of the jobs in the health care sector.

The Defense Department is launching several pilot projects involving partnerships with trade and professional associations to help current service members find post-service jobs by providing licenses or certifications for military-learned skills that meet private-sector standards. Highly skilled machinists, welders, engineers and logistics specialists would be provided free civilian certification after completing military training, under partnerships that will launch this summer and could help up to 130,000 active-duty service members.

Additionally, the Veterans Affairs Department has started to aggressively market a new GI Bill education benefit for unemployed veterans, age 35 to 60, that will retrain them into new, high-demand skills. Full-time students enrolled in college or vocational courses, or apprenticeships and on-the-job training, could receive up to $1,473 a month in education benefits, under the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program that will launch on July 1.

Applications are now being accepted for the program, which is capped for 2012 at 45,000 students. An additional 54,000 students will be accepted in 2013.

Because of the age limitations, and the requirement that applicants must have already exhausted their veterans’ educations benefits, it is unlikely that many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans would qualify for the program, but they are not specifically excluded.

In a statement, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said VA “is committed to supporting veterans as they seek employment.”

“This initiative will help provide education and training so that veterans have an opportunity to find meaningful employment in a high-demand field,” Shinseki said.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman who pushed for creation of the program, said he isn’t satisfied that only 12,000 people have applied for the program, and is urging VA to do more to publicize it, including using paid advertising.

“We cannot afford to let even one training slot go unfilled,” Miller said. “Advertising is a quick, effective way to control the message in order to reach a large number of veterans in a very short period of time.”

Miller also was unimpressed by the announcement of the credentials partnerships to help active-duty members, saying it is unclear whether anyone who gets a license will end up getting a job.

“In today’s economy, the point is to create jobs, not the illusion of jobs, which is exactly what this proposal does,” Miller said.