In Afghanistan, Cpl. Clayton Rhoden earned about $2,500 a month jumping into helicopters to chase down improvised explosive devices or check out suspected bomb factories.
Clayton Rhoden sells his blood plasma for $80 a week and works what extra duty he can get for his Marine Corps Reserve unit.
Now he lives with his parents, sells his blood plasma for $80 a week and works what extra duty he can get for his Marine Corps Reserve unit.
Corporal Rhoden, who is 25, gawky and polite with a passion for soldiering, is one of the legions of veterans who served in combat yet have a harder time finding work than other people their age, a situation that officials say will grow worse as the United States completes its pullout of Iraq and as, by a White House estimate, a million new veterans join the work force over the next five years.
Veterans’ joblessness is concentrated among the young and those still serving in the National Guard or Reserve. The unemployment rate for veterans aged 20 to 24 has averaged 30 percent this year, more than double that of others the same age, though the rate for older veterans closely matches that of civilians. Reservists like Corporal Rhoden have a bleak outlook as well.
In July 2010, their unemployment rate was 21 percent, compared with 12 percent for other vets.
“There’s been an upsurge in young people going into the military and not staying for a full 20-year career,” said Jane Oates, the assistant secretary for employment and training at the Labor Department, which has worked to improve the three-day transition assistance program for outgoing soldiers and enlisted companies like Facebook to reach them. “I think transitions have been difficult, with too few jobs out there and lack of clarity about what the employer wants.”
The employment gap cannot be explained by a simple factor like lack of a college degree — despite their discipline and training, young veterans fare worse in the job market than their peers without degrees.
Employers and veterans seem to view each other as alien species. Managers, few of whom have military experience themselves, may fear the aftereffects of combat or losing reservists to another deployment. They may have difficulty understanding how military accomplishments translate to the civilian world.
Young veterans, whose work history may consist entirely of military service, often need to learn basics like what to wear to a job interview. More important, many say, they are overwhelmed by the transition from combat to civilian life.
“It’s shell shock for a lot of them, going from such a structured lifestyle to a lifestyle that’s got so many variables,” said Daniel Hutchison, 29, who uses his own combat disability check to finance a shoestring transition assistance group, Ohio Combat Veterans. “They’re dealing with all the emotional things they went through, and they feel like they’re alone.”
The Obama administration has championed veterans’ maturity, management skills and even their promptness. Employers have jumped on the bandwagon, and large companies like JPMorgan Chase and Verizon have signed a pledge to hire a total of 100,000 veterans by 2020. More than 220,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are out of work.
Source: The New York Times | SHAILA DEWAN