Thursday, July 20, 2006

Employers saying 'no' to veterans? 

Here's what looks to be a well-reported article from the Lansing State Journal, a newspaper in Michigan:

WASHINGTON - Young veterans returning from Iraq and other tours of duty aren't always coming back to a hero's welcome from employers.

The jobless rate for veterans age 20 to 24 was 11.2 percent in the second quarter of this year.

That's an improvement over last year, when about one in six veterans in that age group was jobless. But it's still more than twice the overall unemployment rate, and it's higher than the jobless rate of 8 percent for non-veterans age 20 to 24.

The article poses some possible explanations, though none of them hold much water for me.

I suspect part of the difference is that many veterans returning from the battlefield are living off of money they saved up during deployment, and are a little more picky about what jobs they take.

Nevertheless, this part was infuriating:

Mental health experts have said at least 15 percent of servicemembers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will develop post-traumatic stress disorder, similar to the rate for Vietnam War veterans, according to a Government Accountability Office report in September 2004.

The disorder scares off some potential employers.

"Of course, there is an alarm," said Ron Fairnot, a Michigan state employee who helps find jobs for veterans in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties. "There are certain positions where you would not put an individual" with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Those positions, he said, include jobs working with the public or with heavy machinery that makes lots of noise.

First of all, only a miniscule minority of PTSD problems are going to be debilitating at work. And the idea that "there are certain positions where you would not put an individual with post-traumatic stress disorder" - and that these positions are marked by characteristics as vague as "working with the public" - is simply absurd.

Actually, I would LOVE for a prospective employer to try to tell me that to my face, because I can use the proceeds from the lawsuit.

For what it's worth, discrimination against reservists and Guardsmen is nothing new. I once applied for a warehouse job in Tennessee, and they asked, in front of a witness who was another veteran and good friend of mine, if I could work weekends.

I told them I was a member of the National Guard, and while most weekends were not a problem, the first weekend of the month I had national guard duty. "Is that a problem?" I said.

"Well, it's part of the shift."

"Is there any other obstacle to employing me?"

"No, everything looks ok, so far, but we check references."

"That's fine. But if my scheduled drills are going to be an issue, I'd like to establish that right now."

"Well, it's part of the shift."

My friend and I left the interviewer's office, and doubled up laughing. "I get half the lawsuit!" he said.

On another occasion - this was last year - I informed my supervisor that my unit had been alerted for another hurricane expected in a couple of days, and that I would keep her posted.

She walked into my office and said "When we hired you, it was with the understanding that you would be available to work. I need your position to be productive. You told us you were going to be leaving the Guard. We were straight with you. I expect you to be straight with me."

On another occasion, I had some administrative duties to perform and I gave her a couple of weeks notice that I would be requesting about four days off. Again, she walked into my office and said "I understand hurricanes. But this is not an emergency. You volunteered for this. You can't just take off for this kind of stuff."

"I'm sorry, but that's not what the law says. I can print it out for you if you like."

"So you can schedule military duty any time?"

"Well, the law is pretty clear, and it includes both voluntary and involuntary mobilizations, even for short periods."

"And we have no recourse?"

"Well, here, I'll show you what the law is, and you can read it." (She was a JD, anyway.)

"Well, I'll see what the people downstairs have to say."


When I was passed over for a pay raise at the end of the year, I requested a transfer to another department, and when that was denied, I turned in my notice.

Did I have an actionable claim? Arguably, though I haven't pursued it. I did notify my boss's supervisor in writing that there was a potential USERRA problem. At this point, I'd rather let it go. I'm much happier not working there, anyway, and I'd rather not burn bridges or gain a reputation for litigiousness. If there are too many USERRA lawsuits, employers will become even more reluctant to hire reservists than they already are.

But that's what military discrimination looks like in the workplace - and it has little to do with PTSD.

It might have something to do with my substantially reduced post-war tolerance for bullshit. I don't think that's a "disorder," though.

And a big, hearty, 'up yours' to every fake warrior who screwed over the rest of us by milking the system and sliming the reputation of veterans as a whole (and yes, you know who you are), as well as to every journalist who buys into the vastly oversold "PTSD" angle.

Splash, out


P.S., if you employ reserve component service members, check out Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, which has lots of valuable information concerning the rights and responsibilities of employers and servicemembers alike.



My dad, my uncle, and I are all veterans, and we own a family custom-cabinetmaking business. We take veterans whenever we can get them. They are, of course, more organized and disciplined than your average bub of the street.

Uncle is still in NG, and brought a guy from his unit in to work for us. He had to leave after a few months. He was just too torn up after his tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, and what his buddies were going through in Iraq right then and there. Which was a shame, he was one of our best leaders when he was there.

Is there a resource you know of linking up veterans with job opportunities?

Hasn't most people figured out the PTSD is an overused claim to get around $1,000 + a month and use of the Vet hospitals for life. Maybe one in ten of those making claims have a real mental problem, the rest are smarter than the doctors who award the disability. It's funny that after they get the award they can drive all over the country, hunt, fish and participate in any activity they want with no problem. Yes, I am a vet, and yes I served in Vietnam and yes I know several that took advantage of the 'liberals' in the VA system and now draw a goodie each month and use the VA hospital to the MAX. No, I did not apply for PTSD and haven't used the VA hospital ( I am qualified to use it) in the past 25 years.
"Is there a resource you know of linking up veterans with job opportunities?"

Government jobs have vet's preference. (B/c they've shown ability to handle bureaucracy.:) )
See the Helmets to Hardhats ad I have on the right side of the screen on the home page?

There's also Hire a Hero.com, but it seems to be defunct.

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