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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
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 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.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs