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There is one group of young Americans facing unique challenges when it comes to money: military veterans fresh from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The financial prospects for vets under 30 can be daunting, and for many it starts with trying to find a job once they leave the service.

Elizabeth Fiedler of member station WHYY in Philadelphia reports.

ELIZABETH FIEDLER: Kevin Miracle has seen a lot. The 30-year-old served 10 years in the Army after enlisting when he was just 17. During that time he did two tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. Life since he got out in September has not been easy.

Mr. KEVIN MIRACLE (Veteran): When you're over there, you don't realize how bad things have gotten at home. Getting out, finding a job was so difficult.

FIEDLER: The former staff sergeant spent eight hours a day looking for work, but with no offers felt like he'd been demoted to a private in the civilian world.

Mr. MIRACLE: And I literally filled out an application at McDonald's. And they told me I was overqualified, thank you for your service.

FIEDLER: Miracle posted his bio on Craigslist and got a job here at the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center. As an intake counselor, he helps evaluate the housing and employment needs of vets who are coming into the center for the first time.

Miracle's planning to go to college to get a degree in social work so he can help other returning vets. But like many of them, he's limited in what he can do because of any injury. He points to a scar on the palm of his hand.

Mr. MIRACLE: It was a Coke can with a little IED under it - improvised explosive device.

FIEDLER: Miracle knows his challenges are not unique, or by far the worst. Cathy Salerno has seen many of them. She's been working with vets at the same center for 18 years. She says many vets like Miracle have a hard time marketing their skills.

Ms. CATHY SALERNO (Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center): What we would like it to equate to is equal to the important role he played in the military in intelligence. But when he came back, what that equated to probably is a high-paid security guard, and it's really sad and disappointing because these people held such vitally important jobs.

FIEDLER: Veterans advocates say gaining new skills is key. But in this job market, even vets who seem to do everything right can end up struggling.

Ms. ERIN LLOYD (Veteran): I started my job search in November. I've applied to a lot - 50 jobs, maybe more. They actually said I didn't have enough experience.

FIEDLER: That's Erin Lloyd. The 26-year-old Navy vet has an easygoing smile and an accounting degree from Rutgers University. She's maintained her New Jersey apartment with a part-time job and says the discipline she learned as a military policewoman should be appealing to potential employers.

Ms. LLOYD: When I was in that job for those five years, I mean the training is unbelievable. I mean, you're at a job 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

FIEDLER: Many potential employers don't understand the valuable experience vets bring to the job, says Tim Embree. He's a legislative associate with the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Mr. TIM EMBREE (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America): The thing that a lot of folks don't understand is unemployment's been bad for everybody but it's been much worse for veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

FIEDLER: Back at Erin Lloyd's apartment, piles of boxes illustrate her new strategy: she's moving back in with her parents in Florida. Her mom, Jody Miller, has come to help.

Ms. JODY MILLER: She's a great worker, very determined. Military was great for her. I'm just excited to get her back to Florida and get her working.

FIEDLER: Lloyd is looking forward to a career in accounting, financial independence, and moving back out of her parents' home.

For NPR News, I'm Elizabeth Fiedler in Philadelphia.

MONTAGNE: And you can find links to job resources for veterans and explore the rest of our series on financial literacy at NPR.org.

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