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Fighting another battle: Black veterans face high unemployment

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 11/19/2011, 3:30 a.m.

As America observes Veterans Day this Friday, veterans everywhere are going to be celebrated for their work fighting for the country. However, among the many issues that post-9/11 veterans face, jobs for those who have fought for the country are at the forefront this year.

According to recent reports, veterans are having a hard time finding work in the current economy, even with the skills they acquired while in the military. Veterans who have left the military within the last 10 years are reportedly seeing a nearly 12 percent unemployment rate. The nation's average is only 9 percent.

Black veterans have been hit even worse by unemployment. Black veterans make up nearly 12 percent of the entire veteran labor force but accounted for over 17 percent of overall veteran unemployment.

Veterans are having a hard time finding work due to the fact that some employers in the public sector feel that their skills do not transfer to non-military tasks. While serving, many veterans trained for jobs isolated only to the military.

In an effort to help with the issue of unemployed veterans, President Barack Obama recently announced three executive actions that will help them find jobs. The announcement is part of a series of executive actions to put Americans back to work and strengthen the economy.

"No veteran should have to fight for a job at home after they fight for our nation overseas," said Obama. "That's why today I am directing my administration to move forward with three initiatives that will help make it easier for veterans to find jobs when they return home."

The first initiative will create the Veteran Gold Card, which entitles veterans to enhanced services, including six months of personalized case management, assessment and counseling at the roughly 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers located across the country. This could help serve the more than 200,000 unemployed post-9/11 veterans.

Secondly, the My Next Move for Veterans program, launched by the Department of Labor, is a new online resource that allows veterans to enter their military occupation code and discover civilian occupations for which they are well qualified. The site will also include information about salaries, apprenticeships and other related education and training programs.

Lastly, the Obama administration has launched the Veterans Job Bank at the National Resource Directory. The job bank is aimed at helping veterans find job postings from companies looking to hire them. It already searches over 500,000 job postings. Companies can make sure the job postings on their own websites are part of the Veterans Job Bank.

"The American Legion, on behalf of its 2.4 million members, appreciates the efforts of President Obama and Congress to curb the unacceptably high rate of unemployment among the men and women who have selflessly served our country," said Peter Gaytan, executive director of the Washington, D.C., office of the American Legion.

"It's time to pull out the stops. After their service to the country, our war fighters have been hit disproportionately hard by the economic downturn, with unemployment rates that eclipse their non-military cohorts," said Bob Wallace, executive director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. "Without using every option available to assist them, unemployment for veterans will only rise with the drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Veterans can access all of these services by visiting www.whitehouse.gov/vets.