Veterans also struggling in hard economic times

Jennifer Mann

Skyrocketing unemployment across the nation has also hit the country’s veterans. Recently deployed troops are coming home to find that their job prospects are bleak, and veterans in the work force are facing layoffs and struggling to put food on the table.

The good news: There are unemployment services and training programs specifically for veterans, and they can be found nearby, in Quincy and Plymouth.

State and federal laws prevent servicemen and women from losing their jobs when they are called for active duty. The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 applies to both the public and private sectors.

Local veterans agents say the law goes a long way toward making sure National Guardsmen called for active duty have jobs when they come home.

But it doesn’t help younger veterans who enlisted straight out of high school or college, or those who return home to find that their employers’ companies are no longer in business.

“There’s no question – jobs are the big problem,” Marshfield Veterans Agent Richard Martin said.

Martin says he sees everything – from the older veteran whose skill set is dated, to the younger veteran who is lacking working world experience.

Frank Burke, Weymouth’s veterans agent, said most of the calls for help that he receives are from veterans who have been in the work force for years and lost their jobs because of the economy.

“The employment market is not good for anyone right now, and that includes veterans,” he said.

On Monday, President Obama signed an executive order creating the Council on Veterans Employment, part of an initiative to encourage federal agencies to recruit and train military veterans.

The effort aims to bring more veterans into the federal work force by creating special offices within federal agencies that will help veterans identify job opportunities at those agencies, give veterans feedback on their employment application status, and help them adjust to civilian life.

“Honoring our sacred trust with America’s veterans means doing all we can to help them find work when they come home so they never feel as if the American Dream they fought to defend is out of reach for them and their families,” Obama said.

Rockland Veterans Agent Anton Materna said he has seen a number of returning soldiers put a job on hold to go to school, particularly given tuition discounts and other benefits the new G.I. Bill provides.

He refers those veterans who are seeking employment to career centers in Plymouth and Quincy, which are run through the state’s Veterans Employment and Training Services program. The centers have training programs, provide help with job searches, and in some cases will provide stipends for job-related travel.

“Even in times of high unemployment, there are a lot of jobs that go begging,” said Martin, of Marshfield. He pointed in particular to jobs in the trades, customer service and bookkeeping.

Jennifer Mann may be reached at


10.2 % The nation’s current unemployment rate. It’s the highest the rate has been in 26 years.

4.6% The unemployment rate for all veterans of the U.S. military in 2008, the last time the figures were calculated.

7.3% The unemployment rate for all veterans who have served in the U.S. armed forces since 2001.

Source: Department of Labor