Los Angeles Rocked by Unemployment and Poverty Among Veterans

Veteran jobs

It's no secret that veterans currently face higher unemployment rates than civilians with no military background. Navy Times reported that the veteran unemployment rate in August of 2014 was 8.1 percent while the general unemployment rate was 6.1 percent. Despite gradual trends downward, some areas of the country are being hit hard by veteran unemployment, and one of them is Los Angeles, CA.

KPCC recently covered a report that shows nearly 25 percent of veterans in Los Angeles are unemployed, and many of the veterans that have found work aren't getting paid very much.

"Nearly a quarter are earning an annual income at or below the U.S. poverty level," said the author of the report, USC Professor Carl Castro. "That was a surprising finding. I didn't expect that."

The survey was given to 1,356 veterans in Los Angeles County, and the results are bleaker than the national average. According to the report, eight out of 10 veterans responded that they did not have a job secured when they officially transitioned out of the military.  While it's not unusual for service members to be unemployed the moment they become a civilian, it's a critical time to build a foundation for future success.

Worse than being without a job, CBS reported that 40 percent of the veterans surveyed said they didn't know where they would live once transitioning out of the military.

"The main thing we learned with this study is that separating serving members leave the military, and they enter civilian communities with a myriad of issues," said Castro. "There is not a singular need. No one says, 'I just need a job' or 'I just need housing.' Similarly, we have to take a multiple, holistic approach to helping veterans transition."

Fortunately, many companies operating in the Los Angeles area have taken steps to help veterans reintegrate. Walt Disney Co. has made use of their Heroes Work Here program to hire over 4,000 veterans since March 2012 when the program was launched.

Kevin Preston, a former soldier, oversees the program and let KPCC know that Walt Disney Co. hires veterans at every level in the company. "It's like the military," Preston said. "We have a job for almost everything at Disney. Everything from journalism and production to park operations to business operations, so it's a very very broad swath."

These types of programs do more than directly address a veteran's individual employment situation: some have helped educate hiring managers from other companies on how to treat veteran applicants. Veterans in Film and Television, a group designed to foster networking skills and opportunities among veterans, has begun spreading the word to other companies about what makes veterans unique in the civilian workplace.

Tim Norman, a board member of Veterans in Film and Television, said that the program leverages opportunities to educate employers whenever possible. "They're not just wounded warriors," Norman said. "They're not just, you know, heroes. We're all probably right in the middle, and I think that's gone a long way in normalizing the perception of veterans and increasing hiring."

Despite the positive steps these companies have taken, the unemployment situation in Los Angeles clearly marks the need for further action.

"Many constantly heard how employers would love to have a veteran working for them, how easily and well their skills would transition from the military to civilian employment," USC's Castro said. "So service members leaving the military not only expect to find a job fairly easily, they also expect to find a well-paying job because that's what they are hearing while they are on active duty."

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