July 24, 2011

The War at Home

As troops from Afghanistan return home, the fight to find work awaits them

WASHINGTON, DC - When a President announces that he is bringing soldiers home from war, one obvious assumption that is made by people is that its good news. This idea is based on the premise that after spending multiple months in war, after spending multiple tours of service, that the idea of coming back home to your family and friends is the happy completion to a soldier’s experience.

But for today’s veterans, this assumption is all wrong.

The fact is that what awaits them, along with the loved ones celebrating their return, is a dismal employment market. The economy is in a state of serious peril, as unemployment unexpectedly rose to 9.1%, jobless claims have gone up twice in three weeks, and there is a growing fear among the country that a double-dip recession is on the horizon. It was the President himself who, during his primetime address this past Wednesday announcing the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan, went so far as to say that we need to “focus on nation building here at home.”

Make no mistake; the economy is struggling for everybody. But while everybody has been hit by the current financial climate, no group has suffered like veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Recent unemployment numbers for all Post 9/11 veterans is at 12.1%, dramatically higher than the rest of the country. Even worse, veterans age 20-24 have a whopping 27% unemployment rate, nearly double the rate of civilians of the same age group. Veterans have filing for unemployment benefits also doubled from the previous year, with over 850,000 veterans looking for financial assistance as they struggle to find work.

The problem is substantial, and it is growing fast. With 10,000 troops scheduled to come home by the end of this year and a total of 33,000 by the end on 2012, the number of veterans returning home trying to enter the workforce will simply cause the unemployment numbers to go up more.

Many may take the attitude that it is just a sign of the times; everybody is dealing with a bad economy, everybody is struggling to pay the bills everybody is in the same boat. But a veteran’s struggle with the economy goes far beyond simple mathematics. There is an emotional toll that any member of the military faces when they serve in war, often caused by the deadly and chaotic nature of combat life that a veteran had to face on an everyday basis. The VA recently reported that it estimates that over 800,000 veterans suffer from PTSD, a mental illness that can be easily exacerbated by additional stress. Among the most common causes for a PTSD symptom to worsen is by an inability to earn a living and provide for a family, as it causes more veterans to feel like they have failed the people counting on them.

Veterans are in for a long fight. They must prepare themselves to whether this storm of uncertainty with the same determination and focus that led to their success on the battlefield. Because there is no mistaking the current reality; this economy is America ’s war at home.