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If the Pentagon’s latest budget projections are any indication, the issue of veterans’ unemployment may be easing.
Buried in fine print inside DoD’s recent budget submission is a request for $486 million to cover unemployment claims in 2015 from newly separated service members that can provide up to two years of monthly checks.
That would be down from a peak of more than $1 billion in 2011, and from $863 million requested for the current budget year.
The drop comes amid a modestly improving economy, and after the White House and Pentagon heaped money and attention on the problem of veterans’ unemployment, which was especially acute among the youngest troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Unemployment among the “post-9/11” generation of veterans has fallen during the past several years. In February, it was 9.2 percent, down from a peak of more than 15 percent in 2011, according to the Labor Department.
Nevertheless, the jobless rate for those vets has remained stubbornly higher than the civilian population at large, which most recently was 6.9 percent in February.
The $486 million requested for next year is the lowest since fiscal 2008, before the most recent economic recession began and unemployment rates soared.
Experts say veterans had a uniquely difficult time during the recession. That was blamed on a variety of factors, including the difficulty of translating military skills into a rapidly shifting civilian job sector, and an economy with diminished opportunities for the young men who make up most of the recent veteran population.
Since then, the Defense Department has put in place many new support services for separating service members to help them prepare for the job market, including résumé writing tips, education counseling and small-business mentorship programs.
That new effort signaled a cultural shift inside the military, where for years, many senior leaders quietly feared that preparing service members to succeed in the civilian job market might hurt military retention.
In addition, the White House and first lady Michelle Obama have put pressure on private-sector firms to hire more veterans through the “Joining Forces” initiative.