Fresh From War, Vets Fill Unemployment Lines

The unemployment rate for is falling for general population. The same cannot be said for veterans of the wars post-Sept. 11. Nearly 13 percent of them are unemployed. Veterans at a job fair in Detroit are returning just from combat and looking for work.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.