Returning Veterans’ Challenges More Overwhelming than Previously Estimated

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

June 7, 2012

Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) has taken an aggressive pro-active stance in an effort to help returning veterans find jobs. In its Memorial Day television ad, CAPS underlined the plight of jobless veterans and pointed out that although American service men and women are having trouble finding gainful employment, many illegal aliens don’t face similar challenges. (Watch the ad here.)

In her press release announcing the CAPS ad Chairman Marilyn DeYoung wrote: “Our young Americans fought to enforce U.S. policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s time President Obama fought for them by reducing mass immigration and saving jobs for these young veterans.”

CAPS also issued an action alert urging its members to contact Congress and insist that veterans and not foreign-born get the few available jobs.

Since more returning veterans settle in California than any other state, it’s logical that CAPS should be at the forefront of efforts to ease the military’s transition back to civilian life.

A recent story, however, gave painful insights into returning soldiers’ ordeals. In April, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it plans to hire about 1,600 additional psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and other mental health clinicians in an effort to reduce long wait times at medical centers.

The VA, citing its increased mental health care budget, insists that it has been able to maintain quality care levels for all the new veterans who need it, a claim some critics dispute. The VA budget has increased by 39 percent since 2009 and has hired more than 3,500 professionals during the same three year period.

The department says it has also established a policy to do mental health evaluations of all veterans not in crisis within 14 days, a goal it says it meets 95 percent of the time. Nevertheless, the disability compensation system faces a growing backlog as about   900,000 veterans await the disposition on their claims.

In his statement Eric K. Shinseki, the secretary of veterans’ affairs said:

“History shows that the costs of war will continue to grow for a decade or more after the operational missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended.  As more veterans return home, we must ensure that all veterans have access to quality mental health care.” [Veterans’ Department Will Increase Mental Health Staffing, by James Dao, New York Times,  April 19, 2012]

Assuming that the best scenario plays out---the veterans are successfully treated and their claims approved and promptly processed. What becomes of them if they can’t find jobs?

A successful job search in today’s depressed market can last as long as18 months during which time even the most confident applicant can experience periods of self-doubt and depression. For vets, the grind of looking for work might take such a toll that further counseling could be required.

This week President Obama is in Minnesota where he stopped at a Honeywell plant to push his Hire Veterans Job Corp initiative. But as long as his administration condones issuing more than 75,000 work permits to legal immigrants monthly, Obama can’t be taken seriously. [Obama’s Message in Minnesota: Hire Veterans, Associated Press, June 1, 2012]

For the Obama administration to deny veterans a fair shot at employment while allowing 7 million aliens to work in payroll jobs, the figure cited by the Pew Hispanic Center, is a disgrace.

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