Fresh From War, Vets Fill Unemployment Lines
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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
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And I'm Audie Cornish. Today, in Detroit, a jobs fair for veterans. Unemployment for vets who've served post-9/11 is worst than the national average, nearly 13 percent. Among male vets age 18 to 24, the number is much higher, 29 percent.
In a few minutes, we'll talk with the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs about this issue. First, NPR's Sonari Glinton sent us this story from Detroit.
SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: I'm at the Cobo Convention Center in downtown Detroit, where I got a tour of the job fair with Craig Larson with Veterans Affairs.
CRAIG LARSON: The hiring fair is in the back portion behind there and that way they can - that's where they go and actually look at the jobs, get more information, actually be interviewed and, hopefully, possibly be offered a job.
GLINTON: For many vets, especially the young, filling out resumes and interviewing is the hardest part. Matt Chambers is an Army vet. He's 24 and from Northern Michigan. The Army was his first job, but he says he has no experience interviewing.
MATT CHAMBERS: It just feels so hopeless and a lot - I found a couple of places that say that they're hiring veterans and everything like that. It seems more like a publicity thing than anything else, so...
GLINTON: And what kind of jobs are you looking for?
CHAMBERS: Anything that has to do with hard labor. I'm actually terrified of having a desk job, so...
GLINTON: Actually, here in Detroit, the hard labor jobs are the ones that are tough to come by. General Motors is the only one of the car companies offering entry level manufacturing jobs. The majority of the auto jobs available are for the highly skilled.
STEPHAN SHREEVE: They just want experience and, at a young age, I don't really have the experience they're looking for.
GLINTON: Stephan Shreeve is 24. He's in the National Guard and he works at Taco Bell. He's been looking for a better job for a year.
SHREEVE: Where I'm from, like Port Huron - that's where I'm from. There's just, like, not much jobs there and so it's really - so I'm opening up my search for jobs to different cities and stuff.
GLINTON: Meanwhile, Natalie Tomes has a job. She's a Navy vet and works at a hospital in suburban Detroit. Tomes and her husband came here to help cut some of the VA red tape.
NATALIE TOMES: I got out in October of 2007, so I've been dealing with them over the phone and online and it's just a hassle. And then I come here and I find out - oh, you get this and you get that and you're entitled to this. It's like oh, wow, it's so much different when they're right in front of you than on the computer.
BRANDY JOHNSON: My name is Brandy Johnson(ph) . I was in the Army and I am 30 years old.
GLINTON: Johnson has been out of work and out of the Army for four years. She has a college degree and she's been working on a graduate degree. She says most employers don't understand the kind of skills vets bring.
JOHNSON: You are in your uniform. Everybody's so excited to greet you in the airport and say, thanks for serving. Thanks for serving. But, when you go to apply for these jobs and you indicate that you're a veteran, you would think that would give you a little more preference, you know, for people to know that I'm diligent, I'm on time, I'm a hard worker, I'm punctual. And it doesn't help and it's very frustrating.
GLINTON: Given the current economy, Johnson says she wonders why she ever left the Army.
Sonari Glinton, NPR News, Detroit.
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