Imagine being separated from your family, friends, home and all that is precious to you for months, if not years. Imagine missing all that you love, and having to cope with it amid the danger of the battlefield. Finally arriving home and being united with loved ones must instill such great joy, comfort and peace.
Yet, after the homecoming, many of our young veterans are facing another challenge – a troubling and stubbornly slow economy with widespread job scarcity and New York’s high cost of living. Jobless figures among military veterans were shockingly high at the end of 2011 – at a staggering 12.5 percent unemployed. While March 2012 numbers have shown an improvement, 7.6 percent, certainly more can be done. In fact, the unemployment rate among New York military veterans - 18 to 34 years old - is nearly 13 percent.
Some experts cite two main issues keeping veterans from reentering the civilian job market. First, some businesses are worried about hiring military personnel, especially National Guard and reserve enlistees, due to re-deployment; and secondly, the civilian workplace does not seem to understand the value of skills acquired in the military. What can be done to support these heroes?
On the federal level, several tax credits were created as an incentive for businesses to hire jobless and disabled veterans. In our state, I sponsor a bill that helps employers get veterans back to work faster. We still can do more, like promoting entrepreneurship among our veterans, especially our wounded and disabled warriors.
I feel that the skills gained from serving and protecting our country are easily transferable, but there can be issues when trying to apply those skills to the civilian workplace. Sometimes the barriers are as simple as legally recognizing skills like field medicine or heavy vehicle operation for EMT certification or becoming a commercial truck driver. Some of us are trying to correct this in New York State.
For some veterans, it’s a matter of translating and better marketing their skills – such as leadership and management – to employers. I recently sent an informational flyer to our veterans compiling some local and national resources that can help prepare them for their employment search. A copy can be found at tinyurl.com/nysbutlervetjobs.
Moving forward, items that cut costs for veterans, like lowering property and income taxes, will help all of us and assist in our economic recovery. In the meantime, please do anything you can to support, assist and hire our veterans who have sacrificed so that we can live freely and in peace.
If you have any ideas or opinions on how we can help our veterans or improve our economy, please contact me at my Herkimer office at 315-866-1632, my Johnstown office at 518-762-6486 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copies of my “Returning Heroes – Helping Our Toughest in a Tough Economy” informational piece are available upon request.