Veterans' unemployment during coronavirus outpaces rest of US

Updated: 2020-05-25 19:10:24

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As states continue to slowly ease -related restrictions and reopen their , millions continue to be impacted by job losses, particularly , who face a dire economic landscape.

In April, veterans made up 11.7 percent of the country's total unemployment rate, which rose to its highest levels since the and outpaces the nation as a whole. In March, the veteran unemployment rate was 3.5 percent.

On Thursday, the federal government announced 39 million people applied for unemployment benefits in the nine weeks since the virus first took hold in the U.S. More than one million veterans applied for jobless benefits in April alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"If you're dealing with other challenges that impact the veteran community disproportionately like mental health challenges, physical injuries and service, reintegrating back into society... being able to achieve employment at the level in the specific sector that one desires is something a little more challenging," Hannah Sinoway, the executive vice president for organization and strategy for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told Fox News.

In , after hearing complaints of long wait times lawmakers are pressing for workers from the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to be temporarily reassigned to the state Commerce Department to process unemployment claims for those who served in the military.

"It is unacceptable that men and women who served our country cannot even get a response back from their government during their time of need," read a May 20  to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper from several state senators.

U.S. Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Committee of Veterans' Affairs, on Friday urged the passage of the Work for Warriors Act, a proposed job placement bill for veterans and their spouses modeled after California's program of the same name.

The bill would create a pilot program within the Department of Defense that places unemployed reservists, members of the National Gaurd and spouses into local jobs.

"Veteran unemployment has skyrocketed," he tweeted. "This pandemic has exacerbated the need for a permanent employment placement program — the Work for Warriors Act can help us achieve that."

As a whole, veterans tend to gravitate toward certain industries more than others — manufacturing, professional and business services, , trade,  and health — said Rosalinda Maury, director of applied research at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University.

While many sectors have been negatively impacted, those that primarily attract military veterans have not been the one's hardest hit, but have still shed millions of workers amid business closures and statewide stay-at-home orders, she said.

"The industries that have been impacted the hardest are leisure and hospitality, which the majority of veterans are not in that industry," Maury told Fox News, adding that proportionately, hospitality services has recorded the biggest downward turn.

There are 1.2 million veterans workers in the five industries most impacted by the pandemic, which includes travel, mining and exploration, transportation and warehousing, according to  published by the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

In the veteran community, unemployment data suggests women were more negatively impacted. About 14 percent of women filed unemployment claims last month, compared to 11.4 percent for men.

Fears over uncertain job prospects and the economic downturn have deterred some military service members from transitioning into civilian life. Across the military, many are opting to reenlist or postpone leaving.

In addition to dwindling job prospects, the toll of the virus on veterans' health has been jarring. The median age for veterans is 64 and more than 1,100 have lost their lives to the contagion, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The figures don't include the hundreds of residents who've died in government-run veterans' homes.

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