Our nation is finally emerging from one of the worst recessions in American history, yet for our military veterans there is no recovery in sight. The nation’s unemployment rate is 8.1 percent. But the unemployment rate of our youngest military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan hovers at a stunning 29 percent.
Consider that: Nearly one in three Americans who fought to defend us in distant lands cannot find a job here at home.
And the problem is about to get a lot worse. With the war in Iraq over and the mission in Afghanistan winding down, and the imperative of getting our national debt under control, Congress and the administration are reducing military spending. Under current plans, at least 100,000 men and women will leave military service in the next five years. Last fall political leaders failed to reach agreement on a bipartisan plan to reduce the deficit. As a result, the Defense Department budget could be slashed by an additional $600 billion beginning in January 2013 — cuts that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has called “catastrophic.” That could result in even more service members being pushed out the door in coming years. We should start preparing for this influx of new workers in the job market.