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Unemployment for post-9/11 veterans may be higher than thought

March 26, 2012|By David Zucchino
  • A U.S. military veteran registers to meet potential employers at a job fair earlier this month on the campus of Rutgers University. The event for former military personnel drew hundreds of veterans.
A U.S. military veteran registers to meet potential employers at a job fair… (John Moore/Getty Images )

Reporting from Washington — A new survey by a prominent veterans advocacy group has found an unemployment rate among veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that is significantly higher than the rate reported in a recent government survey.

Nearly 17% of veterans surveyed by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said they were unemployed, the group said Monday. A survey released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics put the unemployment rate at 12.1% for veterans who have served since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Paul Rieckhoff, the group’s executive director, said the survey underscores the difficulties veterans face as they struggle to find work in the civilian world.

"This information should be a wake-up call for all Americans,’’ Rieckhoff said in Washington, where the group is mounting its seventh annual Storm the Hill lobbying campaign on veterans issues.

The findings of the two surveys used different methodology and definitions -- and did not necessarily include all of the same veterans. The veterans group surveyed only veterans. The government survey, which is based on annual averages, included all Americans in the work force.

"Their universe is veterans," said Gary Steinberg, a Bureau of Labor Statistics press officer. "Our universe is the civilian ... population.’’

The veterans group survey of 4,278 members nationwide found that 16.7% were unemployed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics report was based on a survey of 60,000 households, including veterans in the labor force who served after Sept. 11.

Steinberg said the bureau does not break out the number of post-9/11veterans surveyed.

The government survey found a 29.1% unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans ages 18 to 24. It put the unemployment rate for all veterans at 8.3%, the same as the overall U.S. rate.

About 2.4 million veterans have served since Sept. 11, 2110, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the veterans survey, nearly half – 49% – said they believed that civilian employers are not open to hiring veterans.  Seventy-five percent said Congress isn't listening to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, and 61%  said President Obama isn't listening to them.

Among veterans surveyed who were unable to find work, 24% said they could not find jobs to match their skill levels and 11% could not find jobs to match their education levels.

The survey also found that two-thirds of those questioned said veterans are not getting the mental health care they need. Thirty-seven percent said they personally knew an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who has committed suicide.

The January survey asked 120 questions and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 1.47 percentage points.


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