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Veteran underemployment represents growing concern
Like the unemployment rate in general, veteran unemployment has fallen in recent years. But the rate among those who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan remains the highest among all American veterans. - photo by Blake McClary
Like the unemployment rate in general, veteran unemployment has fallen in recent years. But the rate among those who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan remains the highest among all American veterans.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the unemployment rate for veterans of the most recent Middle East conflicts was 7.2 percent in 2014, more than other veteran groups. Although this is down 1.8 percent from the previous year, veterans are still unemployed at a higher rate than non-veterans. The non-veteran unemployment rate for 2014 was just 6 percent.

We will continue to deploy this system with every ounce of urgency to make sure all veterans have the opportunity to secure a job that helps them support their families, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in a statement earlier this year about efforts to address veteran unemployment.

Gulf War-era II veteran unemployment disproportionally affects female veterans, whose 2014 unemployment rate was 8.5 percent; the unemployment rate for male post-9/11 veterans was 6.9 percent.

An increase in women serving leads to more female veterans. Of the 3.2 million troops who served during the Gulf War-era II, 20 percent are women, compared with 4 percent of veterans from Vietnam, the Korean War and World War II.

A study published this year in a health journal found that female veterans who served in active duty were more likely to struggle with finding employment than women who served in the National Guard or Reserves. The researchers also found that female veterans who were depressed were five times more likely to be unemployed.

Whether depression underlies unemployment, is exacerbated by unemployment, or both, it is critical to identify and treat depression among women veterans, and also to investigate women veterans experiences and identifies in civilian life, the authors wrote in a research brief for the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University.

In 2014, there were 3.2 million veterans who had served since 9/11. Each year, more than 200,000 veterans transition back into the civilian workforce, but as the unemployment numbers indicate, not all find the transition without challenges.

Some veterans struggle to understand the employment options available to them, said Kim Morton, a spokesperson for a nationwide veterans initiative.

If you served for four years as an infantryman or driver, it may be difficult for you to see a future in the financial industry or as a mechanic, Morton said. In 2014, roughly 53 percent of post-9/11 veterans dealt with a period of unemployment in their first 15 months out of uniform. Some of those veterans found work only to leave the job within their first year.

A study by researchers at IVMF found that the leading cause of this high attrition rate was a misunderstanding among veterans about what it meant to work in a certain field.

They were not informed consumers when they chose that job, Morton said.

Many veterans also suffer from underemployment, defined as a person being underutilized in his or her current job. According to a study jointly produced by Mic and researchers at Georgetown University, among others, workers with military experience reported being underemployed 14 percent more often than non-veterans.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is an advocacy group for post-9/11 veterans. In a survey of almost 3,000 members nationwide, approximately one-third of employed respondents reported dissatisfaction with their current job, given their level of education and experience.

For some veterans, overcoming interviewing problems represents a major hurdle in securing a job. While interviews can be stressful for many people, they may be especially difficult for veterans struggling with PTSD or other mental illnesses.
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