Sunday, February 10, 2008

Iraq Veterans Face Job Discrimination

"Hire a vet! Your best bet yet!"

I remember my father telling me about that slogan when he was getting out of the Navy back in the 1972. It seems nostalgic to think about times when our country honored veterans upon their return, rather than simply "supporting the troops" (which these days, seems to consist of slapping a yellow ribbon magnet on their SUV and watching Bill O'Reilly). Was it so long ago? Must be, because 18% of veterans discharged since 1990 have found themselves unemployed within one to three years of leaving the service.

The report blamed the poor prospects partly on inadequate job networks and lack of mentors after extended periods in war. The study said employers often had misplaced stereotypes about veterans' fitness for employment, such as concerns they did not have adequate technological skills, or were too rigid, lacked education or were at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder.

It urged the federal government to consider working with a private-sector marketing firm to help promote and brand war veterans as capable employees, as well as re-examine education and training such as the GI Bill.

"The issue of mental health has turned into a double-edged sword for returning veterans. More publicity has generated more public awareness and federal funding for those who return home different from when they left. However, more publicity — especially stories that perpetuate the 'Wacko Vet' myth — has also made some employers more cautious to hire a veteran," said Joe Davis, spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Maybe they're right. I can feel the rage boiling up inside of me at the utter ingratitude toward people who've sacrificed so much for their country. It's one thing to not give preference to veterans, but to actively discriminate against them because of some ignorant stereotype is inexcusable.

Reservists are having problems when they come home, too:

Separately, a Labor Department report obtained by the AP showed that formal job complaints by reservists remained high, citing concerns about denied jobs or benefits after they tried to return to their old jobs after extended tours in Iraq. Reservists filed 1,357 complaints with the department in 2006, the latest figures available, down from nearly 1,600 in 2005, when complaints reached the highest level since 1991.

When we talk about spitting on veterans, let it be said that American businesses, not anti-war protesters, were the most egregious offenders in the Iraq War.


LMB said...

That's really interesting... I wonder if people associate the progress of the war with veterans when it comes to hiring practices. I know one of the things my parents like best about their technical manager is the way he organizes/manages the technicians, something he picked up in the service.

Anonymous said...

Does the 18% include the ones going to school? Anyway, Wisconsin has joined many other states by offering a tuition remission (in addition to the Federal G.I. Bill) for its veterans, and has surpassed most by offering tax breaks for companies that hire vets and its own VA benefits that allow you to duplicate your Federal benefits. For example both the Federal and WI VA offer VA Loans, and you can use both at once.

Charles Heckman said...

Iraq veterans are having a hard time because Vietnam veterans failed to protect their own rights. The civil service and government contractors know that they can break any law or regulations to keep from hiring "too many" veterans.
I received an honorable discharge in 1968 after two years of combat as an Air Force pilot. For almost 40 years, I have been denied all employment opportunity in the United States. I have filed appeals against federal agencies and lawsuits, so I have an extensive set of record to document what is going on.
Because I reported that two employees of the United States Forest Service offered me $20,000 to withdraw from a federal civil service selection in Alaska in 1997 and had proof of the offer, that agency was forced to hire me in 1998. One working day before the end of the year, I was fired as a whistleblower and then blacklisted. I have had four appeals before the Merit System Protection Board, and each was settled by fraud committed by the administrative judge. I have the records, included recorded testimony documenting fraud and perjury by government employees. I have not yet been able to get a criminal investigation started against any of the personnel for perjury or obstruction of justice. Some of the decisions might still be posted on
I have had a fairly successful career as a scientist because I left the United States in 1970 to work in Southeast Asia, Europe, and South America and remained ourside of the country until 1998.
During the past five years, my examination scores were the highest on more than 35 hiring certificates for the U.S. Geological Survey. In each case, a non-veteran was selected, even though most had less than marginal qualifications as scientists. More than half of them had not even earned a master's degree. I received a master's degree in the United States and a doctoral degree in Germany and have written more than 70 scientific publications, including 7 books. I also wrote a book about the airlift in Cambodia in 1973 and 1974. However, the two years of combat in Vietnam cost me all chances for gainful employment in the United States. The U.S. Department of Labor classifies only jobs paying less than $25,000 per year as "suitable for veterans," and because I am turned down as "overqualified" for these jobs, I have no opportunity to work at all.
According to the Government Accountability Office and various documents posted on the House of Representatives website,, there are 700,000 veterans unemployed every month and between 225,000 and 250,000 veterans sleeping on the streets or in shelters every night of the year. Most of these are victims of discrimination by employers rather than personal psychological problems, as the press wants us to believe.
Three different employment specialists working in the State of New York told me about 20 years ago that nobody would hire me as a scientist because every selection committee includes somebody who dodged the draft during the Vietnam War and would feel uncomfortable working with a veteran. In addition, non-veteran civil servants fear that the veteran will be promoted before they are and might receive preference in retention in time of a reduction in force.
Before joining the armed forces, young men and women should understand that our government lies and fails to fulfill its legal obligations as well as its promises.