According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate among veterans in March was 3.5 percent. By April, it more than tripled to 11.7 percent. By the time you read this, it could be worse.
There is hope that with the re-opening of much of the economy, jobs will return. Yet some won’t. Women veterans have been particularly affected by the economic downturn, with an unemployment rate of approximately 20 percent in April. Some economists forecast a long recession, and others even predict another Great Depression.
I have always had a great deal of faith in the resilience and strength of the American people and our nation’s infrastructure. But when it comes to economic recovery, veterans are at a disadvantage. Because they spent many of their prime working years in the military, they have not had the opportunity to climb corporate ladders or accumulate the seniority of non-veteran colleagues. What they do possess, however, is a proven record of discipline, skill, responsibility and toughness.
Your American Legion National Veterans Employment & Education Commission is working tirelessly to ensure that those who served this country are not forgotten during this crisis. Our national VE&E staff is in frequent communication with the Office of Personnel Management, congressional committees, VA and the business community to explore opportunities for veterans to maximize their experience to earn a living.
While safety measures related to COVID-19 required canceling some American Legion-sponsored career fairs, most are back on and many have virtual options for job seekers. With our friends at the Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Hiring Our Heroes, The American Legion is supporting upcoming hiring fairs and career summits on both coasts and many places in between. For the latest schedule and access to webinars, visit events.hiringourheroes.org. Virtual topics include résumé-writing, interview techniques, apprenticeship opportunities and salary negotiation. Many events are open to military spouses, who often sacrifice careers when their partners change duty stations.
There is also much to do on the legislative front, and the Legion’s Washington-based staff is on top of it. For example, The American Legion strongly opposes any attempt to weaken veterans preference laws. We not only helped deliver the original GI Bill, but the Legion continues to ensure that modern benefits are not interrupted as a result of the current national emergency.
Veteran homelessness is the ugly sibling of unemployment. Substance abuse, depression and suicide are often a direct result of joblessness. These correlations only reinforce the core missions of The American Legion and the implementation of Buddy Checks across the country.
There is still more we can do, together. Patronize small veteran-owned businesses. If you’re an employer, hire a veteran. If you haven’t spent your government stimulus check, consider a donation to the American Legion Veterans & Children Foundation, which awards temporary financial assistance to qualified American Legion families in need.
Many have likened the COVID-19 pandemic to a war. Full victory will not be achieved until America’s veterans are back to work.