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Veteran unemployment numbers are sky high

August 06, 2011|By Clifton French (cfrench@wsbt.com), Click here to follow Clifton on Twitter | By Clifton French (cfrench@wsbt.com), Click here to follow Clifton on Twitter

MISHAWAKA — Post-9/11 veterans are a large part of the nation’s unemployed, and in Indiana and Michigan those numbers are some of the highest. 

"It's almost to the point where you get to being like, ‘What's the point? What's the point in even looking for a job?’ I'm not going to find one," Lawrence Burnham, an Iraq War veteran from Oregon told CBS News.

Burnham has been home from Iraq for nearly a year and a half. Still, he can't find a job.

July unemployment numbers paint a better picture of the nation as a whole, dropping .1 percent to 9.1 percent. But unemployment for post 9/11 veterans is 12.1 percent nationwide. In Indiana and Michigan, those numbers are much higher.

The unemployment rate in Indiana is 8.3 percent. But for post 9/11 veterans, unemployment is about 24 percent. In Michigan, the regular unemployment rate is 10.5 percent. For those same veterans it's nearly 30 percent.

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"We think it's important to support our troops not only while they're serving our county, but once they get out," said Richard Jankowski of the American Legion Post 161 in Mishawaka.

Jankowski is trying to change those staggering numbers locally.  He and Post 161 are putting together a system with the help of WorkOne and local businesses, like AM General, to transfer people in uniform to working civilians.

Jankowski believes the number of unemployed veterans is so high because they don't know how to showcase their skills to the civilian workforce.

"The military trains their people well and this training is useful in the civilian environment, Jankowski said, "However the presentation of the capabilities that they've acquired through this training needs to be directed toward the civilian workforce."

He says resume and interview skills are just a couple of things that can be improved. He believes bringing veterans into the American Legion is a comfortable place to get that done.

Right now the federal government is putting together a plan to get more veterans into the workforce.

Currently the federal government pushes companies that are government contractors to recruit veterans, but it’s based on a good faith effort.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has a proposal that would change the way those companies hire veterans. The new standards would require those companies to have outreach and recruitment efforts that would be reviewed and monitored. They would also set hiring benchmarks which would require those companies to hire a certain percentage of veterans.

The American Legion is just now starting to get the job program off the ground.  The post has a meeting planned for 7 p.m. August 17 at Post 161 in Mishawaka (133 E. Mishawaka Avenue).  The post is asking for interested job seekers and businesses to go to the meeting or call the post, (574) 255-8319, during the week any time after 2 p.m.

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