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New Report Highlights Challenges for Veterans

July 20, 2012

Last week, Paycheck to Paycheck was released by the National Housing Conference and the Center for Housing Policy. The report looked at the cost of housing in more than 200 metropolitan areas and the incomes earned for 74 jobs, including five jobs “targeted by training programs sponsored by the Department of Labor in partnership with the military and other organizations: carpenters, dental assistants, electricians, firefighters and truck drivers.”

The report found that housing costs remain a challenge for many veterans even with employment. With an unemployment rate of 30.2% among post-9/11 veterans ages 18 to 24, these findings are even more troublesome.

Where are younger veterans living? Data from the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics show the top 5 counties with the largest population of veterans younger than 44 are the counties around San Diego, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Phoenix, AZ; San Antonio, TX; and Chicago, IL.

For Los Angeles and San Diego, the report shows that none of the jobs targeted by training programs provide incomes that would make renting a two-bedroom apartment affordable. In Phoenix and Chicago, dental assistants don’t earn enough but other occupations fair better. Other occupations such as retail sales people and security guards also don’t pay enough.

The findings underscore a key point for elected officials and municipal leaders – skills learned during military service do not automatically translate into civilian jobs that pay a livable wage. There are many explanations for this, but instead of looking at those, city leaders can bring focus and leadership to solutions.

Connecting veterans to their education benefits and opportunities in the community is an important step. Coordination between local community colleges, vocational training programs and universities with reserve and National Guard units, as well as any nearby military installations can help ensure veterans know what programs are available. Understanding and preparing veterans for the local job market is also important. The Department of Labor’s “One Stop Career Centers” can be helpful, but partnerships with community leaders are critical.

Since March 2011, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been promoting their Hiring Our Heroes campaign to help veterans and military spouses find employment. Working with their network of 1,600 state and local chambers, Hiring Our Heroes has hosted more than 210 hiring fairs in 48 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, with more than 10,000 veterans receiving jobs. This year, local and state chambers are hosting hiring fairs in 400 communities.

By bringing together the local chamber, veterans service organizations, educational institutions, government and military leaders, communities can ensure that services are not duplicated, information is shared and connections are made. No one organization can do this alone. Collective, coordinated and concerted action is required.

Let us know how your community is helping veterans find work in the comments below and join NLC members in our ongoing work to better serve veterans by contacting me at harig-blaine@nlc.org.

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