Returning National Guard Veterans Struggle to Find Jobs

National Guard members help a family in Hoboken, NJ during the Hurricane Sandy disaster last month. AP photo/Craig Ruttle

Despite the fact that the Obama administration has helped reduce unemployment rates for veterans returning from war—from 15% to 10% using new online tools—members of the National Guard are facing a higher rate of joblessness that seems to stay high, around 20%. The LA Times reports that the reasons may lie with the differences in how National Guard members and reservists are called up for duty:

“A person cannot run a company with their most valued asset, their human capital, being taken away for 12 to 18 months at a time,” said Ted Daywalt, president of vetjobs.com, one of the largest Internet job sites for veterans.

No longer just “weekend warriors,” the nation’s more than 1 million National Guard and reserve members have been transformed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into frontline forces. Even as the wars wind down, the troops are being tapped for peacekeeping duties in Africa, Europe and elsewhere. Those in the Guard also have state obligations and can be called to respond to brush fires and other emergencies.

For many members of the Guard, volunteering for another tour in a war zone is their only choice to support their families. The LA Times offers 1st Lt. Ernest Rodriguez’s story, who signed up for another tour of duty when he couldn’t find employment to support his daughter, telling The LA Times, “I didn’t want to be in the ranks of the deadbeat dads.”

A new program, called Work for Warriors, is hoping to help head off the unemployment problems National Guard service members and airmen face:

Under a pilot program launched in late January, members of Shepard’s Work for Warriors program reached out to the 756th to help troops start looking for work two months before they returned to the United States. They created a database with the service histories and educational qualifications of all those in need of employment. And they looked for jobs that would be a good fit.

Trucking and security firms had many openings. But soldiers applying for the slots often struggled to translate military skills into terms a civilian employer could understand, Shepard said. Work for Warriors staff helped them purge their resumes of military jargon and focus on skills that would be useful in the workplace: leadership, discipline, responsibility.

While these programs hope to make a change, and discrimination against military service is illegal, rates of unemployment remain high.

What do you think is the long-term solution for returning veterans? How can the National Guard help lower the unemployment rates for its members, specifically?

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