Hip and Unemployed

Unemployment just jumped to a reported 9.4 percent, the highest it has been in a quarter century.

While this might be scary for some, it might present opportunities for others. Few on the active duty side of the military rainbow can say, “Man, I lost my job,” but it is a very different story for Guard, Reserve, former uniformed members and retirees. Sure, a number left the service for greener pastures at hedge funds or the Blackwaters of the paramilitary world, but they have the same street cred as the rest of the jobless. (Lesson: You can only count on you. Recession-proof your skill set.)

Many servicemembers are leaving Afghanistan and Iraq (and elsewhere) for the civilian sector and are faced with employment challenges. They join history’s returning servicemembers from World War II and other conflicts; their situation is hardly unique.

But there is help available. According to the Department of Labor, if you are a servicemember separating from active duty you might qualify for unemployment compensation if you are unable to find a new job. The Unemployment Compensation for Ex-servicemembers program provides benefits for eligible former military personnel. The program is administered by the states as agents of the federal government. You are eligible if you were on active duty with a branch of the U.S. military and were separated under honorable conditions; and there is no payroll deduction from your wages for unemployment insurance protection.

Free money is free money. The VA administers educational benefit and job assistance programs. Nowadays if you are looking for help under vocational rehabilitation, have an advanced degree (or two), and present yourself well, further aid with education is improbable, though this sometimes can depend on your caseworker. (We’ll stop there.) However, the VA will help you find suitable employment. If you are really interested in VA assistance we actually had one VA rep in rural Virginia tell us to try and get to the lesser-taxed VA hubs. (Read: Get out of D.C., Norfolk, Va., and San Diego. Look at, say, Roanoke, Va.)

There are always the Internet cafés where you can feed that caffeine and Dunhill habit you picked up in Afghanistan working on the next great American novel.

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