The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Back from war - Ready to work

  • Soldiers welcome the cheers of gratitude they receive when they come home from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. But what they really want – and need – are jobs.

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  • Soldiers welcome the cheers of gratitude they receive when they come home from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. But what they really want – and need – are jobs.
    However, finding work is proving a losing battle for many of the nation’s vets. Recent statistics show the unemployment rate for veterans under 30 is nearly 20 percent.
    Twenty-four-year-old Clayton Lovelace, an Army veteran who lives in Addison, found it difficult finding a job when he returned home.
    “A problem is, businesses often think vets have no experience,” Lovelace said. “They think we come from one skill set: Everything we know applies to being in the military.”
    Employers often believe that a veteran will have trouble handling the pressures of the job, and hesitate when seeing military service on a resume, Lovelace said.
    “That’s just not the case,” Lovelace said. “As long as a business knows a vet is a good person, a good soldier, disciplined, a person who knows how to work and when to work, that should be fine.”
    Lovelace eventually found a job working for a local business.
    “But not every vet has been that lucky,” he said.
    State Sen. Tom O’Mara, R-Big Flats, is hoping to encourage businesses to hire veterans like Lovelace. He recently co-sponsored legislation to provide a tax credit to state businesses that hire returning veterans. The legislation has not yet been approved.
    “It’s a tough economy all around,” O’Mara said. “But the impact has been especially hard on veterans returning home. It’s hard to find work, and that’s particularly true for wounded veterans.”
    O’Mara said America’s servicemen and servicewomen make enormous sacrifices.
    “This legislation is one additional way to recognize their service and try to encourage economic opportunities and jobs for returning veterans,” O’Mara said.
    “It’s a good idea,” Lovelace said. “A lot of vets have definitely been missing out.”
    A business who hires a veteran under 30 will receive a tax break of 10 percent – up to $10,000 – of the veteran’s salary. A business that hires a disabled veteran will receive a 15-percent tax break.
    The employee would be required to work at least a year before the employer is eligible for the tax break.
    “I think it’s a great idea,” said Jim Inthanongsak, a 30-year-old Marine veteran who served in Iraq in 2003. “Certainly, I know the military is a really welltrained group that is ready to be hired. In the military, people learn a lot of different skills that can be used in employment.”
    Inthanongsak had a hard time finding a job when he returned home.
    “It was difficult to find an employment from the experience I had from the military,” said Inthanongsak, who was in the Marine Corps for about six years. “Job-wise, I immediately didn’t really know what to do. I knew I had the leadership qualities and problem- solving that I received while in the military. I looked for a job, but I was immediately thinking about going back to school, and that’s what I did.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Inthanongsak graduated from the University at Buffalo with a bachelor’s degree in history. He later enrolled at Binghamton University, and he expects to graduate in May with a master’s degree in social work.
    “I’d like to be a therapist. It was just something I wanted to do,” Inthanongsak said. “I’d like to work with veterans who have issues.”
    Lovelace, who attended Corning Community College prior to his four years in the Army, said he also plans to go back to college.“You kind of have to, but being in the military, that’s four years that we have to get back,” Lovelace said. “It kind of puts us behind a lot of people our age little bit.”
    Unemployed veterans can get help at their local VA.
    Brandon Gardner, a spokesman at the Bath Veterans Administration, said veterans can apply for federal government jobs, including at the VA, through usajobs.gov.
    Student internships are another way the VA looks to train potential future employees, he said. The VA also has educational affiliations with several local colleges and universities.
    This spring, CCC began offering classes at the VA campus.
    Dawn Smith, a VA program manager, works with veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan to make their transition back to civilian life as seamless as possible.
    “We have veterans enroll for VA health care benefi ts and services,” Gardner said. “Then we inquire whether they are looking for employment or interested in going to school. If they are looking to enter the workforce, we facilitate the connections with the local Department of Labor and Workforce representatives. If they are interested in going back to school, we will assist them in applying for benefits, like the Post 9/11 GI Bill or VRAP.”
    The Bath VA can be reached by calling 664-4000.

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