Military Unemployment Especially for Women Vets

Ideas and Issues

New Orleans  I’ve wondered about military unemployment since spending time with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law in Seoul on a Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago.  Both enlisted years ago in the U.S. Army.  He stayed in until he qualified for a decent retirement, and then over recent years managed to get virtually the same job in logistics as a G-11 civilian supervisor for the last four years in several locations in Korea.  We talked at length about their next move, hopefully back towards home in the middle south where they have family and a mess of grandchildren now in the Houston area, where their son retired from the Navy.  They have become experts in tracking the prospects on the elaborate posting systems, but I was startled when they said that sometimes there were more than a 1000 replies to a posting.

Thinking about it for a minute, it made sense.  A downsizing military force has to both keep “young” enough to fight and figure out a way to muster out some of the same people they had convinced to make the armed forces a career.   Looking past the family ties, what is the story on military unemployment?  Is it the scandal Mitt Romney alleged or something different?

A bit of light research reveals that grabbing the facts from the fiction around veterans’ unemployment is very tricky.  Overall unemployment for all veterans – regardless of age – is actually significantly lower than general unemployment at only 6.6%.   At the same time the problem of the “lost generation” being created by the Great Recession also punishes soldiers taking off their uniforms.   Veterans have shared, if I can say that, the very gradual recovery so that soldiers mustering out from the post-9/11 enlistments and our two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are now experiencing 9.7% unemployment which is down from nearly 12% not so long ago.

The most disturbing unemployment statistic I stumbled on involved women, the vital but precariously maligned part of our military forces.  Unemployment for returning women is almost 20% (19.9% to be exact), which is horrific, especially when you consider that this is not an insignificant part of our enlisted numbers at 15% of the total.  These are not my father’s armed services!   Looking around I found a report from with the following report:

Veterans groups have their own theories why so many returning service women are having such a tough time finding work.  Some say a big problem is that many of these female vets have children, and after long deployments abroad are looking for jobs that allow them to combine parenthood and work.

My first thought when thinking about military women is not the notion of military “moms!”  The fact this is the case for so many also says undoubtedly  something about employment prospects that have real meaning for women in the general economy that makes the military attractive for young women with children in spite of separation from family and children.  This also puts a whole different complexion on the issue of sexual harassment of women in the military which seems to be bringing down both the high and mighty in the command structure as well as being epidemic in the ranks without any satisfactory resolution.  (It was embarrassing while in Tokyo recently to be confronted again by Japanese horrified at yet more vicious and violent rapes of teenage women on Okinawa by some of our soldiers stationed there, bringing renewed calls from citizens and Japanese political parties for us to exit the area!).

I would have thought women with military experience would have been high on the corporate hiring wish lists, but it seems from the numbers to not be the case.  What is it about discrimination that it follows you everywhere, regardless of the record?

Something to think about on Veterans Day?