When children are caught in a crisis

The post-9/11 generation of U.S. military veterans has not exactly come home to a sizzling economy. America’s slow recovery from recession has made unemployment a major issue across the country during the past five years. For veterans, especially those who are young and newly discharged from service in the global war on terrorism, the problem has been even more severe.

In late 2011, unemployment for veterans ages 18 to 24 was bumping up against 30 percent, and overall veteran unemployment was 13.1 percent, both significantly higher than that of the general population. The American Legion, as it has since the doughboys came home looking for jobs after World War I, is working tirelessly to improve the employment picture for today’s veterans, and progress is being made.

By December 2012, unemployment among that youngest group of veterans had fallen more than seven points, to 22.7 percent. The overall veteran unemployment rate fell more than two points, to 10.8 percent, over the same year.

Veteran unemployment continues to exceed that of the general population, but I am confident that the gap will continue to close and rates will continue to decline. The Legion’s collaborations with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our

Heroes program, along with career events by RecruitMilitary, LLC, Military.com, and others are putting veterans to work and simultaneously contributing to the nation’s economic recovery.

The American Legion has taken the fight to Washington. We’ve led the charge to pass legislation that provides tax credits to businesses that hire veterans. We’ve also worked with government employers, the Teamsters and industry associations to find ways to transfer military experience into credits toward certification and licensing in a variety of trades and specialized professions.

In 2012, The American Legion organized or was directly involved with more than 200 veteran career events nationwide, more than ever. Employers like Microsoft, Amazon.com and Walmart do not just give veterans jobs at these events. They put veterans on career paths. An estimated 7,000 veterans became employed through Hiring Our Heroes job fairs last year.

American Legion posts at the local level contribute facilities, promotions and volunteers at job fairs across the country. According to the Legion’s Consolidated Post Report (with only about 62 percent reporting), more than 900 posts had veteran career events last year. In addition to the thousands hired at these events, more than 1,000 others were placed in job-training programs.

As they come home from combat theaters in the Middle East, and from duty stations around the world, our newest veterans deserve nothing less than an opportunity to make a decent living. Many were recruited into the military on such prospects. Over the past decade, Legionnaires have told employers that the most disciplined, team-oriented and dedicated workers on the market are veterans. Finally, statistics are starting to show that the employers are getting the message.