Bleak future for returning U.S. veterans

The Economist reports: Brett Quinzon did two tours in Iraq before leaving active duty in May. Originally from Minnesota, Mr Quinzon now lives in Thomaston, a small town around 65 miles south of Atlanta. A grey December morning found him filling out forms in Atlanta’s large veterans’ hospital, seeking treatment for depression. Since returning from Iraq, he says he has “more anger issues”, and finds himself “more watchful and on-guard in public situations” than he was before he deployed. That is not unusual: many soldiers return from the battlefield with psychological scars. Between January and May, as he prepared to leave active duty, Mr Quinzon applied for hundreds of jobs. The search proved difficult: like many veterans, he enlisted right after high-school, and lacks a college degree. But persistence paid off. He is now an apprentice at a heating and air-conditioning company, and is being trained as a heavy-equipment operator.

Not all recent veterans are so lucky. Around 800,000 veterans are jobless, 1.4m live below the poverty line, and one in every three homeless adult men in America is a veteran. Though the overall unemployment rate among America’s 21m veterans in November (7.4%) was lower than the national rate (8.6%), for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan it was 11.1%. And for veterans between the ages of 18 and 24, it was a staggering 37.9%, up from 30.4% just a month earlier.

If demography is indeed destiny, perhaps this figure should not be surprising. More soldiers are male than female, and the male jobless rate exceeds women’s. Since so many soldiers lack a college degree, the fact that the recession has been particularly hard on the less educated hits veterans disproportionately. Large numbers of young veterans work—or worked—in stricken industries such as manufacturing and construction. Whatever the cause, this bleak trend is occurring as the last American troops leave Iraq at the end of this year, and as more than 1m new veterans are expected to join the civilian labour force over the next four years.

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2 thoughts on “Bleak future for returning U.S. veterans

  1. Norman

    This is a sad ugly result of the Bush/Cheney/Neocon war[s]. The business leaders in this country should wake up to the fact, that this problem is just going to grow, possibly exploding in their faces if they don’t come up with a solution soon. Sweeping this under the rug doesn’t make it go away. Attention should be paid to the simple idea that this country is in need of an overhaul in the manufacturing department, infrastructure rebuilding, as well as the servicing & health care too. The Congress need to get off their sycophantic attitudes and take care of this country’s needs, the hell with the M.E. & what Israel wants. If they can’t defend themselves, then that’s their problem. Enough is enough. The Administrations & Congress double standard is what has brought this country to where it’s at today. Change before this Army of Veterans joins the rest of the displaced 99 % and all hell breaks loose.

  2. Jaime

    I couldn’t agree more that our nation’s veterans are facing a less than welcoming job market returning home. That’s why the non-profit I work for, American Corporate Partners (ACP) is so important. This free service pairs post-9/11 veterans with a mid to senior level employee Mentor at some of the nation’s top corporations. They work one-on-one for a year to benefit the veteran’s professional development and build a civilian professional network. For more information please visit

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