Missoulian: Vets deserve employment help

Many Montanans will spend this Memorial Day shopping, gathering with friends and family, or just plain relaxing – all fine ways to spend an extra day off of work, if you have it. But for too many veterans, Memorial Day is not just another day off of work – because they do not have any job to return to when the day is over.

That is something to think about as we reflect on the sacrifices made by countless Americans who have fought for this country. Memorial Day is a day to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice – who gave their lives so that we could live in freedom. It is also a day to acknowledge the debt we owe to all those who have offered their lives in service to this nation.

One small way we can begin to pay back this enormous debt is to do everything we can to help returning veterans make a smooth, successful transition back to civilian life. And here, there is much room for improvement.

For instance, for young veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the unemployment rate tops 15 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Other sources put this number as high as 27 percent. In comparison, the nation’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate hovered at about 9 percent at last count.

There are several reasons the rate is higher among these returning soldiers, including the fact that many of them opt to use G.I. Bill benefits to pursue higher education, while others are biding their time until their next deployment. Some are living with a mental illness or disability as a result of their service, and need extra support in order to find a good-fitting civilian career.

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