Young US Veterans Are The New Face Of Unemployment

Iraq Soldier

President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night compared troops returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan to those returning from WWII:

At the end of World War II, when another generation of heroes returned home from combat, they built the strongest economy and middle class the world has ever known.

But a recent report released by the U.S. Army paints a much a different picture for troops coming home during an unprecedented employment crisis. 

The chart below shows that unemployment is much higher today than during other post-WWII recessions. The report says some researchers believe that the U.S. might not return to 2007 pre-recession numbers. 


recession unemployment recovery history military

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In 2010, Reserve Component (RC) soldiers and veterans between age 18 and 34 were more likely to be unemployed than non-veterans (civilians). According to the report, an increased unemployment rate among RC soldiers has to do with them being squeezed “between deployments and a fragile labour market.” It also notes that these numbers are “likely underreported because of deployments and other temporary Service‐related employment.”

unemployment veterans age group

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For RC soldiers, including the reserve units of the National Guard and US Army, high unemployment, which leads to added stress, has also increased the risk of suicides and suicide attempts: 

“This compelling relationship can prompt some chilling conclusions about the potential impact of financial stress, in terms of severity and duration, on the RC and veteran populations—especially given the potential drawdown and reduced opportunities for military employment as the Army transitions to peace.”

In 2010, financial pressures such as excessive debt and bankruptcies were responsible for about 12% of suicides and suicide attempts. The report notes, however, that this is a low-ball estimate:

…this number may be significantly underreported as finance can be a co‐stressor with other stressors such as failed relationships and work‐related issues. Additionally, Army metrics still do not separate financial loss from actual financial debt.

military suicide stressors
Figure II‐22: Active Duty Suicide Attempt and Death Stressor

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