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Senate starts year with vets employment bill (1/23)
January was not a good month for veterans seeking jobs. The unemployment rate for Post-9/11 veterans climbed to 11.7 percent, up from 9.9 percent in December, while the national unemployment rate remained unchanged at 7.9 percent.
For veterans of all generations, the January unemployment rate was 7.6 percent, still below the national average. However, this is the third consecutive month it has increased; that rate was 7 percent in December and 6.6 percent in November.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which calculates the jobless rates, says the economy created 157,000 jobs in January, slightly more than in December, but the total number of unemployed people remained at 12.3 million.
Among the overall population, the unemployment rate is 7.3 percent for both men and women. However, there are big gender differences among the Post-9/11 veterans, where the jobless rate is 10.5 percent for men and 17.1 percent for women.
For example, about 80,000 unemployed veterans who are 35 and older have been approved for programs aimed at helping them learn a new and marketable skill by providing one year of GI Bill benefits. The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program is too new to have produced any graduates from the training, so it is not clear whether this will help find them jobs. Nonetheless, Senate Democratic leaders have proposed a two-year extension of what was supposed to be a one-year program on the belief that it has to help, said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and a cosponsor of the Senate’s veterans’ jobs bill, S 6.
The Defense Department, at the urging of Congress, has overhauled transition assistance classes for separating and retiring service members and has, for the most part, made it mandatory to attend at least the core briefings. Early reports from the services about the improvements are good, according to congressional aides monitoring the programs, but there is no evidence, yet, that service members who go through the new course are finding jobs faster, getting higher pay or making better use of military-learned skills in a civilian occupation.
In an interview Wednesday, Sanders said it was an obligation of the government to do everything possible to help veterans find jobs, but the key limitation for veterans isn’t their service but the overall economic situation facing the U.S.