Older veterans struggle to find employment
by: Troops to Trades
September 11, 2016
By Fatima Hussein
James Boggan, a 58-year-old Marine Corps veteran, says despite five months of joblessness his confidence is as high as ever.
“I have a lot to offer employers – I’m versatile, I’m disciplined and on time and I don’t look 58,” the Hartwell resident said, holding a small stack of pamphlets and job search documents at the American Legion convention job fair last month.
The job fair, focused on providing employment opportunities solely for veterans, was filled with a variety of mostly men of all ages and backgrounds. Some young, some old, others clean cut and others wandering in rumpled suits.
oggan, freshly shaved and slightly distracted by recruiters surrounding him, said he sometimes wonders if his age plays a part in the rejections he gets from employers.
He quickly dismisses the idea. “I have no doubt I’ll get a job soon,” he said.
Boggan is one of a growing group of veterans who cannot find work, where among the half million unemployed veterans in the U.S. in 2015, almost 60 percent are age 45 and over, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This number, which is steadily increasing, comes despite the plummeting veterans unemployment numbers in the last seven years.
Veterans who have served since September 2001 saw their annual unemployment rise as high as 12.1 percent in 2011, and the rate for post-Sept. 11 veterans fell to 5.8 percent last year.
Coupled with the fact that almost 20 percent of Americans 65 and older are now working, many older vets are out there looking for work but to no avail.
Barriers to employment: ageism, military stereotypes
Locally, 67 percent of the 145,870 veterans aged 45 and older in the Tristate are unemployed, according to the Tristate Veterans Community Alliance.
While the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, prohibits employment discrimination based on age, according to AARP, two-thirds of older job applicants say they have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace.
“Of those, a whopping 92 percent say it is somewhat or very common,” states the study published in 2013, called Staying Ahead of the Curve.
Dan Knowles, a spokesman for the Tristate Veterans Community Alliance, said there is an added layer of difficulty for older vets who look for work because of misconceptions about them.
“Because of stereotypes, there are unconscious biases people have about former military members,” Knowles said.
“There’s this idea that they have PTSD, or can’t fit into company culture. That’s untrue.”
Knowles said other major barriers to employment in the region include lack of reliable transportation, lack of computer skills and lack of work history.
Programs are available to vets
There are a variety of programs available to veterans, including OhioMeansJobs’ Disabled Veterans Outreach Program, which has specialists are located throughout Ohio.
The organization provides one-on-one assistance with career guidance, job referrals, interview preparation, and job development for veterans.
There are numerous other non-profits in Greater Cincinnati dedicated to providing job search services to vets, including Easter Seals, Cincinnati Works and the United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
Knowles said there is a lack of communication and organization between the non-profits that provide services, which can hinder the employment situation.
He added that many organizations are too reactive to the needs of out-of-work vets.
“While many services are designed to provide crisis care, fewer are available for preventative services, under-employment, and peer support,” an August 2016 report for the Tristate Veterans Community Alliance says.
“This leads to many veterans only able to seek emergency care for chronic debt, depression, substance abuse, and homelessness when they become a crisis.”
“We should not wait until vets are homeless to help,” Knowles said.
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