Help for veterans: A C-VILLE reader speaks up

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Notes from the news desk. File photo. Notes from the news desk. File photo.

Last week, ahead of Veterans Day, we ran a story about local vets and their struggles—and successes—coming home to the civilian workforce. It was a profile-oriented piece, but one reader, an Iraq veteran from Earlysville, pointed out that there weren’t a lot of specifics in the article about the resources out there for returning military. Fortunately, the letter he sent us did, and it also outlined the problem of unemployment among veterans in ways our story didn’t. Read on, and let his words help serve as reminder that while we officially remember our vets once a year, many of them face difficulties every day.

Here’s his letter, which you’ll also find in our Mailbag section in Tuesday’s issue:

I wanted to personally thank you, as a veteran, for publishing the story on the challenges veterans face finding employment “For veterans, the job hunt comes with extra challenges” in this week’s C-Ville. I’m a loyal reader for the past four years, even during my recent six month deployment to Afghanistan (as a civilian this time), and always keep up with you on Twitter.

I wanted to add some feedback though on some facts I wish you would have included. Unemployment rates for veterans aged 18 to 24 averaged 29 percent in 2011…more than 10 percent higher than the rest of the population in America. And according to the September jobs report, post 9/11 veteran unemployment was at 9.7 percent with female veteran unemployment at a staggering 19.9 percent. This topic was even addressed recently on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart,  which highlighted additional challenges veterans face such as poor translation of work experience to civilian credentials.

I wish you would have mentioned ways that struggling veterans can get help. I’m a member of multiple veterans organizations: the American Legion (Post 128 in Stanardsville), the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (iava.org). All three of these great organizations are making both legislative and direct progress in mentoring and trying to help veterans find work. This is in addition to the amazing work being done to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) counseling and GI Bill benefits. I’m very happy you addressed PTSD, but I wish you would have helped lead the many struggling veterans in the area to the where they can find help.. either through the organizations listed above or directly through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The main regional VA hospital is in Richmond and they have an Iraq and Afghanistan transition office (Lynn P. Anderson, OEF/OIF Program Manager, Phone 804-675-6494 or Jose Illa, 804-675-6266 or Kimberly Hinson, cell phone, 804-387-4108), but there is also a VA outpatient clinic right here in Charlottesville that can be reached at 434-293-3890 — they can facilitate the registration process for area vets.

You mentioned Piedmont Virginia Community College’s role in educating young vets, but are you aware of the difficulties we face in getting the GI Bill benefits we have earned? I’d love to know how PVCC and/or the University of Virginia is facilitating the use of the GI Bill for veterans and who/where veterans can go for GI Bill assistance locally. Both the VA (at http://gibill.va.gov) and IAVA (at http://newgibill.org) have great information for veterans hoping to use either the Montgomery or the Post 9/11 GI Bill. But according to the Stars and Stripes, the VA backlog on paying Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits are worse than ever with pending claims over 300,000 last September.

I love that you addressed this concern, I just wish you would have helped to lead veterans to help and hoped you might have encouraged local business to hire veterans based on our unique job experiences, ability to take on huge responsibilities at a young age, and experience with accepting orders, working hard, and performing duties with integrity!

Sincerely,
L. Nelson
US Army (2001 – 2008), medically retired, two-time Iraq vet
Earlysville, VA

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