Augusta veterans discover finding employment is hard work

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Brian Hammond pictured himself behind the counter of his own car repair business at age 26.

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Patrice Murray in the mailroom at the Charlie Norwood VA Hospital.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Patrice Murray in the mailroom at the Charlie Norwood VA Hospital.

Instead, he’s watching his dreams as an unemployed, disabled veteran.

“I wanted a stepping stone,” Hammond said, but his service has become a hindrance, not a help.

The reasons Hammond can’t find work or hold a job – a war-related injury, limited civilian work experience, a poor economy – are shared among the 11.7 percent of veterans who are unemployed. That figure from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is several points higher than September’s national average of 9.1 percent and the 10.3 percent unemployment rate in Georgia and 11 percent in South Carolina.

On Monday, President Obama proposed a tax credit for businesses that hire veterans. The proposal includes a $2,400 “Re­turn­ing Heroes” tax break for employing a veteran who has been out of work for at least a month and up to $9,600 for companies hiring disabled veterans who have been out of work at least six months. The measure was heartily endorsed by the Senate and is expected to be sent to the House this week.

The proposal was applauded by veteran advocates in Augusta, who have seen firsthand the challenges met by veterans searching for work.

Jerry Baker, one of two veterans representatives at the Georgia Department of Labor’s Career Center in Augusta, said it is a shame more people aren’t hiring vet­erans, because they’re dependable and trainable and understand teamwork.

What sets younger veterans back is that they lack an employment history, especially when they go into the service straight from high school.

“For younger soldiers coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq, the job market is so tough right now,” Baker said. “They have skills, but experience is what’s hurting them.”

That was the case for Ham­mond, who joined the Marines after graduation from the Academy of Richmond County with the intent of serving his country and learning some job skills. His training as a field radio operator landed him in Iraq in 2004, where a suicide bomber driving a water truck destroyed his forward operating base. He returned home after a medical discharge with a bad back and a head full of bad memories.

From his perspective, his studies into becoming a field radio operator should have been the equivalent of going to a trade school. But there’s no use in the civilian world for his skills, he said.

“If I hadn’t gone into the military I would have had my bachelor’s degree now,” he said. “It’s frustrating because I put so much work (into training).”

Adjustments

Jim Lorraine, the executive director of the Augusta Warrior Project, said that in his efforts to find jobs for veterans, he has discovered employers are willing to hire former service members.

“But veterans don’t know how to access jobs, and vice versa,” he said.

Lorraine has identified several reasons why veterans have trouble adjusting to the civilian work force, with the difference in pay scale between a soldier and a civilian a big one. Even junior enlisted soldiers are making roughly $41,000 a year, with benefits including free health care and a housing allowance. To leave the service and start an entry-level job that likely pays less requires a serious lifestyle adjustment. Not every veteran is willing to take that step at first, Lorraine said.

Jeremy Penberthy has extensive job experience as a civilian kitchen manager. In Afghanistan, the former lance corporal managed a big budget ordering food for Marines and he typically worked 84 hours a week. He is not daunted by working a little overtime on the weekend, when restaurants are busiest.

“I love to work,” he said. “I’m just trying to get my foot in the door, and that’s what’s frustrating.”

After more than a dozen rejections, he began questioning whether it was something personal that was shutting the door. At one point he feared it was his status as a veteran, so he stopped bringing his discharge papers to job interviews.

“It kind of makes you wonder what America stands for,” he said.

Reservists

The challenges are different for reservists. Employers have to hold a job for part-time soldiers on deployment, but the law doesn’t specify that it has to be the same job or a full-time job when the soldier gets back home, Lorraine said.

And that’s if they still want the same job. Lorraine recalls a civilian paramedic who went to Iraq and cared for injured soldiers. Upon his return, the sight of a car wreck or similar traumatic event was too much for him to handle, and he had to launch a different career path, Lorraine said.

Unemployment among disabled veterans is nearly 85 percent.

Patrice Murray hurt her back during job training, and long periods without rest aggravated the injury. It eventually became a debilitating injury that kept her out of work. More veterans should be hired, she said, because they know about discipline, focus and teamwork.

“That’s what you’re trained to do,” she said. “It’s instilled in you.”

Bill Lawson, the national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America, was in Augusta recently to receive a check for $292,000 on behalf of Augusta’s vocational rehabilitation center for disabled veterans. Lawson, an Army veteran who became paralyzed through electrocution, said he felt as though his life was over when he was first injured.

But through Paralyzed Veterans of America he realized there were disabled veterans out in the job market who had far worse injuries. Lawson said he believes his initial reason for not applying for work is the same one that keeps employers from considering disabled veterans.

“Fear of the unknown plays a large part,” he said.

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Augusta resident
1368
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Augusta resident 11/13/11 - 03:25 am
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It's about time Vets get the

It's about time Vets get the same treatment as inmates. Inmates have been getting this benefit for years.

trillaboycloud
0
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trillaboycloud 11/13/11 - 03:54 am
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I understand this article to

I understand this article to the fullest. I am a disabled veteran. I was put out as honorable discharge in feb 02. When i should have went to the medical board as a medical discharge. A Senior Disabled Vet had told me that i still had benefits and other rights which the military never told me i had when i was being discharged. I had proof that i was disabled which resulted from the military which i had to go to ptrp twice but was later neglected when i went into A.I.T. which is sad that when i was in basic they were willing to help you get where you need to be when injured but when going to A.I.T at fort Gordon nobody cared about my injury or getting me any results of what was going on with me. I had no option of being discharged compared to when i was in basic. It took me close to 8 years 7 finding out about the rights that i could file a claims and having The American Legion fight for my rights and benefits which helped that i had some records and proof that i was injured twice in the military. Then 1 year to have my claims approved which i was told is a good time frame since alot of others go threw years to hear any results or such. Threw out those 7 years find work was hard even with an honorable discharge with a DD-214 sheet. But now stating that I am a Disabled Veteran it is even harder when the hiring manager or hr member gives you a crazy eye. I have been out of work for 2 years, its a point which you wanna give up. The only income i have is the 40 percent disability which is half of what minimum wage makes a month, making it where i can't have a life off of. Even so in Job Applications they say their are no discrimination against disabled I feel that is not so truthful. I was discriminated at a walmart when the hiring assistant manager told me to go across to the other room which a certain employee will assist me which to find out was the training room where u get hired and the employee their was going to assist me i guess watching the hiring video's and get my paperwork... Then all of a sudden the assistant manager comes in shaking my hand saying thank you. I did not understand what he was trying to say and said your welcome. Then he stopped beating around the bush and said oh i mean thank you for coming and if you get the job will call you.. which i have heard dozens of times but I never do get a call back from a job when i hear those words. I felt discriminated for being told to go to the hiring room to start my process which only those who get hired go to, and on top of it people were being hired on the spot. Just to have the assistant manager i guess change his mind which i have to say was my disability. My disability are with my legs and feet. I am able to meet everything they ask on that application. Which I told the Assistant manager since i was applying for an electronics department only thing i told him was i feel it in my knee if i stand up for too long and that i would need a two man assist when lifting anything too heavy.. the requirement was 40 pounds which i could do by myself on that application. I have some choices which there is a service connected program which you can go back into training for a job within 2 years of winning your claims. I have 1 year left but to me i went threw school already and i really do not want to go threw a process of schooling especially after school i went into the military as my career choice. Its like starting all over again I am almost 30 years old that is already 1 thing against me looking for a job and then telling them your disabled is the 2nd. It is like they don't care that your a Disabled veteran. But the fact they hear Disabled. I lost my job because of my disability where i was a security guard. I enjoyed that job and trying to get back into security or such again. But getting a call back or even a interview is awful, I even went to aiken to apply for jobs and still same results even when doing an interview over the water in sc once they hear disabled you get the look of failure and already know your not getting the job or hearing back from them. I was told that being disable is not a bad thing or the end of just doing what i used to do. But it seems the opposite that you get looked down at and that you are a safety hazard or the hiring manager or employee does not want to hiring a disabled or for the most part disabled veteran for that job position. I also have another option which i hope my primary care will help me with but that is also a long shot from what i heard. When i was discharged out the army without an option this was not the vision i saw myself back in 02. It is about to go into '12 almost 10 years later and i am still struggling as when i first was discharged. But at least it is not all that bad since i entered as disabled vet end of '10. I remember at the liaison when being discharged that they said they were going to help me find a job when i leave base and gave me a number. But little do you know when you take that step off base that is the last you hear from them. I called that number and to my surprise it was a pizza place... pure irony to the saying insult to injury..the other number i had was disconnected, it was like a slap to my face. I feel bad for those who are discharged and try back into the world as a civilian which is hard reminds me of the movie crooklyn as in how it feels leaving the military and then trying to have a life in the world as a civilian. But I also feel even more for those who are Disabled Veterans trying to do the same when it seems everything is against you. I am happy to know about my rights and benefits which many do not know about when being discharged and have no idea about. Don't mean to keep going on this article it just hit me hard since i know how it feels about trying to get into the work force as disabled or trying to have a life after being discharged.

allhans
24142
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allhans 11/13/11 - 09:28 am
0
0
Too many people looking for

Too many people looking for work - and out of work. Veterans and non-veterans.
I doubt that when they enlisted they could foresee the terrible economy that would welcome them when they returned to civilian life.
Many are elecing to stay in the military for this reason.

I wish them and all job seekers
well.

Brad Owens
4747
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Brad Owens 11/13/11 - 10:33 am
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0
Maybe we can get a factory in

Maybe we can get a factory in Augusta to make yellow ribbon magnets for SUVs so these vets can get a job...

Disabled Vets always get that end of the stick. Use em' up and spit them out. In a country of 300,000,000 people, you would think we could find a few thousand jobs for these folks.

Why not make every Fed job reserved for vets first?

Seems I have seen enough Krispy Kreme backsides filling giverment chairs in Fed offices to help make plenty of room for the comrades who have given so much.

The way we treat our disabled vets is disgusting,

Brad

Jane18
12332
Points
Jane18 11/13/11 - 10:50 am
0
0
I want a really good

I want a really good mechanic, how about letting us know where and how to contact Mr. Hammond...........and thank you Veterans, for all you have done for America!

belle
309
Points
belle 11/13/11 - 11:08 am
0
0
Brad, were you aware that if
Unpublished

Brad, were you aware that if a veteran is a retired Officer that they are penalized financially for working for the government as a civilian?

augusta citizen
9718
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augusta citizen 11/13/11 - 12:52 pm
0
0
It's a real shame that those

It's a real shame that those who have risked everything to protect us have a harder time finding a job. There are so many reasons they should be at the top of the list when applying for a job. They are able to be trained in many areas, conform to rules and duties and complete what they start. They are also trained in team work and taking instruction. Best to all, I hope you find employement soon and happy belated Veteran's Day!!

augusta citizen
9718
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augusta citizen 11/13/11 - 12:54 pm
0
0
.

.

Riverman1
87474
Points
Riverman1 11/15/11 - 09:32 pm
0
0
Has the "CSRA Wounded Warrior

Has the "CSRA Wounded Warrior Project" ceased to operate? I don't mean the national program, but the one that started here locally.

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