Out of Uniform, Out of Work

Out of Uniform, Out of Work

About this series

"Out of Uniform, Out of Work" is a four-part series that explores factors that are contributing to a veterans' unemployment rate that hovers well above the overall national jobless rate, particularly for young veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

PART ONE lays out the roots of the problem. Many young people join the military precisely because they can't find jobs in their hometowns — and then return to those same hometowns when they leave service. The story also explores how some veterans are using the Post-9/11 GI Bill's generous housing stipend to put off dealing with a tight job market.

PART TWO will look at perceived biases against veterans in the job market as a result of widespread publicity about post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, as well as the subtle bias many reserve component members say they face from employers who worry about repeated mobilizations by reservist employees.

PART THREE will explore the phenomenon of National Guard and reserve troops repeatedly volunteering for deployment — and even returning to full-time active duty — because they can't find civilian jobs that pay anything close to what the military offers. With the Iraq war over and the war in Afghanistan winding down, such opportunities are shrinking — which will likely add to the unemployment problem for veterans.

PART FOUR will look at the way forward as the Veterans Affairs and Labor departments, and, increasingly, the Pentagon, struggle to address the issue of veterans' unemployment through such efforts as an extensive overhaul of the old Transition Assistance Program and other initiatives. This installment will include a tool kit of information on various employment programs and other resources for veterans.

Part 1

Undervalued and underemployed

Vets find diminished return on their job-search investment

Like many veterans, former sailor Nick Walker has struggled to find direction since leaving the military in 2008.

Initially, the former yeoman second class returned to his home state of Indiana — 30th among the states in unemployment — and started school. Using the GI Bill, he spent several years as a full-time student, studying psychology.

After graduating in 2011, he looked for a job — any job. He applied to restaurants, retail stores, a medical supply company and a pawn shop.

Earlier this year, after months of leaning on his parents to help with his cellphone bill, he finally took the only job offer he got: The 28-year-old college graduate and military veteran now works at a Burger King.

Continue reading part 1...

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