Don't discriminate - hire our veterans

Letter to the editor

02/22/2012 10:00 PM

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"It is a shame we have nearly two out of three employers who will not hire a member of the National Guard because of the possibility of missed work due to deployment." Major Kent Ketter Illinois Army National Guard, South Loop resident

President Barack Obama said on Nov. 7, 2011, “If you can save a life in Afghanistan, you can save a life in an ambulance. If you can oversee millions of dollars of assets in Iraq, you can help a business balance its books here at home.”

Recent news in November reported that 11.1 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans were unemployed, a drop from 12.1 percent in October. Unfortunately, this percentage still far eclipses the non-veteran unemployment rate, which fell to 8.1 percent in October, and the jobs market demonstrated other disturbing trends for young veterans. Unemployment among these younger veterans rose to more than 37 percent in the last month. These trends indicate that overall jobs market seems to be improving, but that veterans of the current conflicts continue to face significant disadvantages in finding work once they return from combat deployments.

Recent congressional hearings on February 2 indicated potential military obligations make these veterans unattractive to potential employers who may have to account for drill weekends, annual training, professional military education, or potential deployments.

During the same congressional hearing this February, called Lowering the Rate of Unemployment for the National Guard, witness testimony of Mr. Theodore Daywalt, CEO and President of VetJobs demonstrated the high unemployment rate of young veterans is a direct result of their participation in the National Guard and Reserve and the current call up policy. Due to the constant activation of the National Guard, upwards of 65 percent of employers will not now hire as a new employee anyone who is an active member of the National Guard. The result is the exceptionally high unemployment rate of young veterans. The unemployment rate of 18 to 24 year old veterans in November 2011, was 37.9 percent and fell to 31.0 percent in December.

If a veteran has totally separated from the military, retired, or is a wounded warrior, they are for the most part finding employment. If a veteran continues to participate in the National Guard, they are having a difficult time finding meaningful employment due to the constant call-ups and deployment schedules.

Young veteran unemployment in the National Guard will become worse as they try to compete against veterans downsized from the active duty forces. Young veteran unemployment in the National Guard could go even higher if there is not a change in policy; and how civilian employers consider the value of veterans.

According to Mr. Daywalt, veterans do very well in the following disciplines: information technology, project management, consulting, sales, linguists, logistics, transportation, human resources, education, construction, manufacturing, engineering, finance, banking, healthcare, senior executives and expatriates.

It is a shame we have nearly two out of three employers who will not hire a member of the National Guard because of the possibility of missed work due to deployment.

Let us heed the words of our President as he recently announced a new initiative to employ our veterans, “Our veterans are some of the most highly trained, highly educated, highly skilled workers that we’ve got.

These are Americans that every business should be competing to attract.

These are the Americans we want to keep serving here at home as we rebuild this country. So we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that when our troops come home, they come home to new jobs and new opportunities and new ways to serve their country.”

Major Kent Ketter
Illinois Army National Guard
South Loop resident

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