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Dan Rackley

Dan Rackley is a US Naval veteran living in Philadelphia and a contributor to "Will They Ever Trust Us Again?"

October 31st, 2011 11:39 AM

Veteran Unemployment: Is This The Welcome Home We Really Get?

More by Dan Rackley

There’s a great thing about Bruce Springsteen songs.  Hidden in many of the lyrics, are jabs at the treatment of various segments of society.  Veterans that have sat down and listened to his music have most likely nodded in agreement.  Someone gets the plight that they go through during and after their active duty service ends.

I am a veteran.  So I know what it’s like to come home and not have anyone want to give you a second look.  No matter what you have done or are capable of doing, you get smacked in the face with the harsh reality that no matter what you thought you were doing; you were just a cog in a machine.

Unemployment is pretty well rampant across all of the United States.  But when it comes to veterans, we have it a hell of a lot harder than the rest of the population.  Some of us spend years, decades giving our minds and bodies to the service of our country.  Now, no matter what you think of the direction of the way the country uses the military, veterans tend to get a pretty awful hand once they get back home.

For fourteen years, Kenya Smith served her country proudly as an officer in the United States Navy.  She had to leave in 2009 due to a medical issue.  She’s got more skills than most people that spent double the time in a similar position.  So how does the country pay her back?  Well, just for starters her house was foreclosed and she had to move into temporary housing with her two teenage children.

This is only one case of a national disgrace that is suffered continually by thousands of veterans all over the country.  People like Kenya Smith come out of the military and get handed nothing.  When you get discharged, the military doesn’t really do much in terms of preparing you for the transfer to civilian life.  You get maybe one or two brief classes where they tell you about contacting the VA and applying for your GI Bill benefits.  You are basically on your own to figure everything out.

Look at when the media covers a job fair.  A good portion of those people are veterans, many of them recently discharged.  They’ve got skills that most people would die for, and they can barely get a job at a fast food restaurant.  Why?  Well, some of the time the answer is that they are overqualified.  If you are someone like Kenya Smith, you should at least be able to get a job at a Macy’s, for God’s sake.

Female vets seem to have it harder with the prospects of an employer having to deal with child care issues and whatnot.  But when it comes around to every veteran, no matter what the gender, businesses should be much more eager to hire vets.  They helped out the entire country.  And the entire country can’t help one person.  The Veteran’s Administration sometimes can be a very confusing system to go through, which prevents many from applying for VA benefits.  Sometimes the fog of paperwork is thicker than the fog of war.

More needs to be done to ensure that things like this do not happen to any veterans.  They are being given the skills to perform jobs in the civilian world, but they aren’t given the tools to get them.  That’s why you see so many veterans either homeless or standing in line at job fairs begging for a job.  They shouldn’t have to beg.

The worst part of the Kenya Smith story, is that she is about to be kicked out of her temporary housing.  She has been breaking her back to try and find a job, and she wants to contribute.  But this former naval officer is being booted from where she is staying.  On Veteran’s Day.  This is one time where I would say that a thank you is just not good enough.

I don’t know Kenya Smith.  But when I hear of something like this happening to anybody that served, it sickens me.  It sickens me because people like her and other veterans give their lives to come back to situations like this.  The military is not innocent in this either.  There needs to be more done for veterans exiting the military than just being handed a DD-214 and being wished good luck.  Because once you get discharged, you’ve almost become a used part in a machine to the country.  The country simply should not let things like this continue to go on.

“Seven hundred tons of metal a day, now sir you tell me the world’s changed.  Once I’ve made you rich enough; rich enough to forget my name.”-Bruce Springsteen

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