News

Guard and Reserve Members Fare Worst Among US Jobless Veterans

Mana Rabiee

The unemployment rate for members of the U.S. National Guard and military Reserve returning from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan is much higher than the jobless rate among U.S. veterans overall, according to the military and veterans’ advocacy groups.

The National Guard has been reporting jobless rates as high as 50 percent among its units returning from the recent overseas wars, compared with an unemployment rate of 8.3 per cent for all military veterans.

The U.S. military has been studying the problem for months but says it only recently began to identify some of the reasons behind the high jobless rates among members of the Guard and Reserve.

Major Pam Ellison of the U.S. Army National Guard sits on a White House task force to combat the high jobless rates among Guard and Reserve units returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

She says the problem was initially off the military’s radar because employment among members of the Guard and Reserve was viewed as something that falls into the civilian sector.

“We don’t have our arms wrapped around it,” she said. “We are now starting to measure things. We are now starting to get ahead of the units deploying so we can query them. ‘Are you unemployed now? Did you come to us with a job and are you going to go back to your job?’”

America’s Citizen Soldiers

The Guard and Reserve are also known as America’s “citizen soldiers” because they rely on part-time troops who go on military deployments while maintaining their civilian lives and jobs.

U.S. law requires employers to hold a job for a Guard member or Reservist while they are deployed but many simply had no civilian jobs to go back to before they went overseas.

Lieutenant Colonel Steven Lelbach of the U.S. Army Reserve was among the troops who returned from Iraq only to face another battle at home: unemployment.

Lelbach started looking for work while still in Iraq but since his return to the U.S. in July, the divorced father of four children has had just one face-to-face interview.

“I really never believed that I would be this long without employment. The money is about gone. Next month my rent is dependent on me getting my federal tax returns. And then there’s no money left,” he said.

The Guard and Reserve say jobless rates among returning troops may be high because their soldiers don’t always have full access to the education, training and job placement programs that are available for full-time active duty veterans.

Some Guardsmen and Reservists say recruiters draw heavily from rural areas with traditionally higher unemployment rates and that employers are hesitant to hire them if they might be deployed yet again.

Daniel Elkins of the Veterans of Foreign Wars says the high jobless rates among America’s “citizen soldiers” could reduce their military readiness.

“When you have 30, 40, 50 percent unemployment rate among your soldiers and sailors, that drastically will impact your readiness level as well as your level of morale,” he says. “It needs to be addressed before we enter into that crisis.”

The Department of Defense is now considering several plans to help Guard and Reserve veterans find work including making employment training programs mandatory for troops transitioning back to civilian life.

But for Steven Lelbach and the other thousands of returning members of the Guard and Reserve who served in Iraq and Afghanistan that help may not be enough.

Lelbach has vacated his Virginia rental home where he had lived for nearly a decade and is bracing for what he calls “rock bottom”.

“It’s just been really, really tough to keep and maintain a focus where you don’t lose your own self-respect,” he says.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs