Though unemployment as a whole may be decreasing, the jobless rate for veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan is on the rise, provoking concerns from some that it can affect our national security.
The jobless rate for those veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 was 12.1% in 2011 an increase over 2010 when it was 11.5%. In comparison the national unemployment rate in February 2012 was 8.3% and that was down from 8.7% for 2011.
Kevin Schmiegel, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s veterans employment program, believes there is a bigger problem than just these veterans being out of work and doesn’t see anyone wanting to sign up for the United States military if they can’t find a job after they serve.
“This is a national security issue,” Schmiegel said in an interview. “What happens to the all-volunteer force? We’re not going to be able to recruit enough people to serve in the military if we don’t do something now.”
The Chamber of Commerce already has been running a program called “Hiring Our Heroes” which runs job fairs for veterans, but that is not enough as last year it ran 100 fairs in 45 different states, and the unemployment rate still rose.
“This is a problem that I worry about a great deal,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said at a Feb. 14 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “And frankly, it’s one of the risks involved as we reduce the budget by this level, is how to ensure that we take care of those that are returning.”
Currently, President Obama is looking for $1 billion for the next five years to develop a Veterans Job Corps to hire 20,000 veterans for conservation projects.