Veterans Jobless

March 21, 2012 by staff 

Veterans Jobless, Thomas Garlic and Steve Castillo found that their time in combat in Iraq and their service in the Army added up to little or nothing when they became civilians looking for work.

“It was very depressing,” says Garlic, 26, who lives with his wife and 5-year-old son outside Chicago. He was discharged in 2008 with post-traumatic stress disorder and has been largely jobless ever since. “Every time I would go up to bat, I would just strike out.”

“When I first got out (in 2008), I had a lot of motivation, a lot of high self-esteem, and everything was good,” says Castillo, 31, Biloxi, a medically retired Army staff sergeant from Biloxi, Miss.

But steady work eluded him as well. He lives on temporary, often-menial labor and an $1,800-per-month government disability check for his combat injuries. “We’re barely scratching by,” Castillo says.

As the nation grapples with finding work for its newest generation of combat veterans, job experts say that basic roadblocks persist for those willing to hire them: how to find these veterans and how to train them in new, non-military skills.

“We’ve just got to be very, very creative about this,” says Michele Deverich, executive director for a consortium of nearly two dozen health care companies committed to hiring veterans. “There’s got to be an extra mile that we walk here to do this. And it’s absolutely worthwhile.”

Nearly 30% of male veterans ages 18 to 24 were out of work last year, compared with a 17.6% rate among civilian peers, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report released Tuesday. Unemployment last year was 12% for men who served during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, compared with 9.3% among civilian males.

Women were even worse off: 36% of young female veterans were jobless in 2011, compared with a 14.5% rate among young women 18 to 24.

As the economy improves, President Obama has launched an initiative for hiring veterans, and there have been some encouraging signs, with unemployment rates among veterans trending down this year.

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