Reprising his appearance from last Memorial Day weekend, American Legion Legislative Director Tim Tetz was once again a guest on the May 27 broadcast of CNN’s "State of the Union."
Program host Candy Crowley reminded Tetz that, last year, he said the biggest problem with veterans was their high unemployment rate. The current jobless rate for veterans in the 18- to 24-age bracket is 17.3 percent. Why, Crowley asked, do jobs continue to elude our younger veterans?
Getting younger veterans back into the civilian work force, Tetz agreed, is still a big problem. But it is generally a "hard time for young people to get jobs" and the unemployment rate for non-veterans in the same age group is 15 percent. The "scariest number" is that, out of 780,000 veterans in America currently without a job, two-thirds are aged 35 to 64 and often do not have GI Bill education benefits and other resources available to younger veterans.
The next topic was the perennial problem of the VA claims backlog, which Crowley said "is something like 900,000 and taking up to 400 days to get them processed. Seems like it’s gotten worse."
Referring to the previous week’s hearing by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Tetz brought the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) into the discussion. He noted that it took servicemembers an average of 404 days to get through that system — from the day their commanding officers identify them as possibly being unfit for duty because of injury or illness, to the day they are finally discharged from active duty.
Tetz said that making our troops "sit there and languish for 400 days in some barracks on some base is absolutely an atrocity."
Crowley ended the segment by saying, "We are struck by both the growing backlog at the VA, as well as the stories of some servicemembers who have been deemed unfit for service due to an injury, but have to wait up to 400 days or more to be discharged from the military."
Any servicemember who is having difficulties with their disability evaluation is encouraged to contact "State of the Union" by visiting http://sotu.blogs.cnn.com/. Video clips from the show are available on the same Web page.
Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, also appeared on the program.