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February 1, 2015

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Life after military is no parade in this economy


Richard Brian / Special to the Sun

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman hands a flag to Taylor Cochran, 11, during the annual Veterans Day parade on 4th Street in downtown Las Vegas on Friday Nov. 11, 2011.

Veterans Day Parade

Veterans and members of the Las Vegas American Legion Post 8 waive at the crowd during the Veterans Day parade on 4th Street in downtown Las Vegas on Friday, Nov. 11, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Vintage jeeps and transport vehicles rolled through downtown Las Vegas on Friday morning, carrying veterans of wars stretching back to World War II. High school marching bands played patriotic tunes while spectators along 4th Street smiled, clapped and waved, visibly thankful for the military service of the men and women of all ages.

A pair of veterans advocates, Charles Baker and Frank Ventura, stood along a sidewalk and savored the support of the thousands who lined the streets for the city’s annual Veterans Day Parade.

Yet Baker and Ventura, both of whom served in the Gulf War, couldn’t help but think of a problem plaguing U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ­— chronically high unemployment — and wonder what it says about the depth of the nation’s commitment to its former servicemen and servicewomen. Nationally, the youngest recent veterans — those ages 18 to 24 — had a 30.4 percent jobless rate in October, compared with 15.3 percent for non-veterans of the same age group, said Bloomberg Businessweek, which analyzed Bureau of Labor Statistics data. For black veterans ages 18 to 24, the figure was 48 percent nationwide. Overall, the national unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was 12.1 percent in October vs. 9 percent for the entire nation.

Baker and Ventura say recent veterans face multiple barriers in finding employment, especially the youngest of the group. The workplace has changed for many of the veterans who served multiple tours overseas. Technology and software are new and often unfamiliar to them. A significant portion do not know how to write a resume or have never experienced a job interview. Veterans younger than 21 — and there are 20-year-old vets — are too young, according to Nevada state laws and local regulations, to work as bartenders or security guards who carry weapons, or as a certified licensed repair person of air conditioning and heating equipment in the Las Vegas region.

“They can’t do work they were trained to do,” said Baker, the southwest regional vice president of the Fleet Reserve Association, a congressionally chartered nonprofit organization that represents the interests of veterans of the Navy and Marines. “Our laws have to be amended so they can find work.”

He argues that state and local political leaders and public policymakers in Nevada need to create advisory panels filled with veterans of all ages, raising awareness of the challenges former military personnel face as they return to Southern Nevada. Ventura agrees.

“The problem that’s going on here in Nevada is you’ve got one job opening and 500 people applying for it,” he says. “That puts returning veterans at a disadvantage.”

During the parade, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller spoke of his support for Thursday’s Senate vote that saw members of both parties overwhelmingly support an Obama administration measure aimed at easing unemployment among veterans. The initiative would create a $5,600 tax credit for businesses hiring any veteran who has been out of work six months or more and a $2,400 credit for veterans who have been unemployed for more than four weeks. Critics of the proposal, which now awaits consideration in the House of Representatives, note that businesses actually have to hire veterans in order to qualify for the tax credit. That’s a tall order in a state and nation where large- and small-business operators are reluctant to hire new workers amid continued economic uncertainty. So Heller, a conservative Republican, was asked whether he would support a stimulus-style spending package to create jobs for returning vets. The answer was no. “Stop and think about the math problem we have in this country,” he said. “We need to match revenues with expenditures.”

Nevada Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, a Democratic candidate for one of Southern Nevada’s three U.S. House seats, stood nearby. “The only thing we need to be concentrating on is jobs,” he said. “These are heroes, and we should do everything we can to help them.”

Asked whether he would support a stimulus-style measure to create jobs for returning veterans, Oceguera said “we should give (tax) incentives to employers so they hire returning vets.” Asked whether “stimulus” was a bad word in today’s political environment, Oceguera closed his mouth tightly and nodded.

Meantime, Baker and Ventura pondered the potential for the creation of jobs for returning veterans. They were matter-of-fact rather than bitter. Their tone reflected frustration, not anger.

“Everyone says the right thing,” Baker said, “but we have veterans who are being forgotten about.”

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  1. One of the things that has bothered me throughout the years, has been the way military recruiters sell joining the military. In their presentations, they lay out the amount of time served, the expected travel opportunities, educational opportunities, healthcare, pay, and retirement benefits. It all sounds pretty inticing to a young person who is starting life at square one with next to nothing to their names.

    Little is discussed about the quality of these supports (which are subject to the whims of Lawmakers in Washington, D.C.). Just sign on the dotted line and they get 3 hots and a cot and are told what to do for X amount of years. For many youth, exiting the family protected world to the scarry world of adulthood, the military offers them some security.

    Usually, they join out of frustration looking for reasonable work that not only pays the basics in life, but offers a glimmer of the American Dream. Some join because they are now legal adults and their weary parents are ready to give them the boot out of the house for a variety of reasons (usually due to youthful rebellion and disrespectfulness).

    But a military job is about national security and war. The training is extremely specific for military protocols and procedures, and few skills are transferable to civilian workplaces. That is a problem, and it should be stressed to young recruits that they need to keep a foot in the door with civilian education while serving in the military so as to be prepared and competitive vying for a civilian job when they leave the military. The Federal Government has done a respectable job with the G.I. Bill for education and housing.

    If a service person has taken proactive steps while in the service, there are employers out there that give them extra points or preference based on years in military service which can assist them in landing that job. Some employers show respect and will allow service persons more weight in the competition of candidates for a position because of respect for serving our country.

    Any "incentives or stimulus" money backed positions are temporary. As soon as the money runs out, that hired person is in jeopardy of losing that job. I have seen it happen in education, where hundreds of teachers were hired with a one time, one year "stimulus fund", and as soon as that year and stimulus money ran out, there were cuts with those teachers---most of the public did not realize that is what had happened. Districts put a spin on this problem, trying to blame the union, when in fact, the district took the stimulus funding, hired these teachers in hopes that the government would continue the funding, and when that did not happen, they deferred responsibility for the dilemma. Hence, why politicians wince over those words now, the temporary gain is not sustainable and will return to the original mess.

    Blessings and Peace,

  2. "Meantime, Banker and Ventura pondered the potential for the creation of jobs for returning veterans. They were matter-of-fact rather than bitter. Their tone reflected frustration, not anger. 'Everyone says the right thing,' Baker said, 'but we have veterans who are being forgotten about.'"

    Exactly. Now that Veterans Day is over with, the GOP, and their Tea Party infection, can go back to attacking the Veterans Administration, military benefits and constantly only use our military to pound out stupid talking points, just use us, but only as an excuse to just generally continue to whittle down everything we (I'm a retired Navy Veteran) were ever promised after signing on the dotted line.

    For some incredibly stupid reason, this Tea Party infestation in the Republican Party likes to pick something every month and attack it. Now they've levitated over to the military. Oh, they get this, let's see, we don't like that, austerity is the sole goal of everything, this Government spending needs to stop, even if it causes misery, suffering, and unfairness to people, even death by neglect, don't matter, the MONEY is more important to them than anything. It changes with the wind. First it's Medicare, then Social Security, then Medicaid, then senior citizens, then postal workers, then firefighters, then police, then nurses, then teachers, then education, then unions, then the entire labor force, then they run out of people to blame...blame it on Martians. It don't stop with the Tea Party. They are all like Don Quixote fighting windmills. They fight and fight and fight, then scratch their heads and wonder why there are so many damn socialist teleprompter reading windmills.

    It's all so predictable with the hordes of rats that populate the Republican Party nowadays. They have morphed into a protest movement that is only good at complaining and whining rather than coming up with solutions to anything.

    Right now, the statistics show that just about 50 percent of the so called "99 percenters" are either not registered to vote and/or they are politically apathetic and don't vote.

    That needs to change. We need to mobilize. No more of this divide and conquer crap the GOP does. We need to be all of one mind and get rid of the foul stench of radical ultra-conservative extremism they want. A strategy that only benefits the filthy rich.

    Time to take this country back by flexing our voter muscle. Time to fix things.

    And besides, it will actually cause job creation. We slap all the conservatives out of power, we ensure that Hannity, Limbaugh, Fox News and conservative radio/television people can continue their harangues and be profitably employed for quite awhile. They can provide further guidance to the GOP for their policies too.

  3. Since moving to Vegas I have seen strong support for our military and it makes me proud to be member of the community, and I say Thank You.

  4. Before another politician makes another cut or policy change with our country's Veterans, they better be ready to work for the same salary, benefits, and retirement! Our country's LAWMAKERS/LEADERS need to have the SAME COMPENSATION as our military, police, fire, educators, civil service workers!!!!

    Time to VOTE them out, and VOTE in leadership who walk their talk with the People, and will suffer with the rest of us! This needs to happen now.
    Thank You American Vets! You are most appreciated!
    Blessings and Peace,