This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.
On this Veterans Day, take a moment to thank past and present military men and women for their service.
That gratitude likely will be appreciated. But what they might appreciate even more is a job.
The economy’s been tough on many Americans, with unemployment stalled at about 9.6 percent. It’s been even worse for many U.S. military veterans transitioning to civilian life. They’re facing a record jobless rate of 11.8 percent.
Those leaving active-duty military service aren’t the only ones experiencing employment challenges. National Guard and reservists coming home from sometimes multiple deployments often find that their jobs no longer exist because their employer has downsized or gone out of business. Others are finding that some employers are reluctant to hire someone who might be called up again.
In times past, being a veteran was something positive to list on a job application. Now some vets aren’t mentioning their military service; they perceive an anti-veteran bias – particularly against service members who have been deployed to war zones, due to widely publicized mental health issues experienced by some.
Proposed legislation aims at helping veterans get jobs. Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Adam Smith have introduced the Veterans Employment Act of 2010, which would expand job training, placement services and small business opportunities for vets. The bill passed the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in August. Congress should take it up again when it reconvenes. Another promising bill in the pipeline would provide a simplified tax credit for employers who hire veterans.
Private businesses can do more to help veterans. Consider the “Welcome Home Joe” campaign by JC Penney and JA Apparel Corp. in partnership with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. The initiative provides veterans of those wars with free business outfits appropriate for job interviews.
Then there’s Microsoft Corp.’s Elevate America program, which announced Wednesday $2 million in grants and $6 million in software and curriculum to organizations helping veterans and their spouses transition into civilian careers. Bellevue College’s Project SUCCEED is one of the grant recipients.
If every business that is seeing its bottom line slowly improving were to do just a little more to help veterans, that would go a long way toward reducing the shamefully high unemployment rate they’re facing.