Friday, April 09, 2010

Unemployment, deployment and coffee shortages

Oregon's unemployment rate has improved since the soldiers left for their final pre-deployment training, but it's still quite high. The rate was at 10.1 percent in February, according to the Oregon Employment Department.
"We're going to be pushing in every nook and cranny of our state to find employers who are willing to hire vets and I think we can do it," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon).
A new website,, is being created to help soldiers find jobs and services.
Worksource Lane, the Lane County's employment office, already gets federal funding for three veteran's services officers who work to find returning and current vets find jobs.

The above is from Laura Rillos' "Home from Iraq -- and looking for work" (KVAL -- link has text and video) which is the latest attempt by the media to draw attention to the problems facing returning service members, especially those serving in the National Guard. The whole country is facing an unemployment crisis and a recession. For members of the Guard, returning home can be a lot like being laid off or fired in terms of money coming in. The Congress could address this and Wyden has proposed adding 90-days of pay for Guard members so they return with a cushion but whether or not the Congress will get behind such an idea remains to be seen -- thus far, it appears no. Possibly most indicative via Rorye O'Connor's article for the Mt. Vernon Register-News on Senator Dick Durbin visiting an outpatient center in Mt. Vernon where he apparently made no mention of the economy or the way it weighs on those returning from deployments. Maybe the answer will be governors? Lance Renaud (KFJB via Radio Iowa) reports on two bills Iowa Governor Chet Culver has signed:

The first bill stipulates that veterans with service-connected injuries who qualify for unemployment or who receive benefits from the Veterans Trust Fund do not have to pay taxes on those benefits. The second bill directs the Iowa Department of Human Services to coordinate with the Mental Health Planning Advisory Council to ensure that a "knowledgeable" veteran serves on the council.

The Governor's Office issued the following press release on the bills Tuesday:

MARSHALLTOWN -- Governor Chet Culver today signed two pieces of veterans’ legislation at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown. House File 2532 allows benefits from the Veterans Trust Fund to be exempted from individual income tax, and Senate File 2175 provides for veteran representation on mental health policy bodies.

"As Commander-in-Chief of the Iowa National Guard, I am proud of the men and women who have served our nation in war and in peace, abroad and at home,” Governor Culver said. “Their commitment and courage is unrivaled and must always be honored. I am proud to work for those who have served, returned to their homes and families and, in some cases, need our support. My hope is that this legislation will provide the support and appreciation they all deserve."

Below are summaries of the legislation the Governor signed:

House File 2532
Allows the two benefits of the Veterans Trust Fund – travel expenses related to follow-up medical care and unemployment assistance – that provide direct payments to the veteran to be exempted from individual income tax. The bill applies retroactively to January 1, 2010, for tax years beginning on or after that date.

Senate File 2175
Directs the Department of Human Services to coordinate with the Mental Health Planning Advisory Council so that a military veteran who is knowledgeable about behavioral and mental health issues of veterans is on the council. The council is required by federal law as a condition of receiving federal mental health funds. DHS does not make this appointment but can work with the council to identify and appoint a veteran. Also adds a member, appointed by the Governor, who is a military veteran knowledgeable about behavioral and mental health issues to the Mental Health, Mental Retardation, Developmental Disabilities, and Brain Injury Commission.

John Larson (Tacoma Weekly) notes the problems experienced by a Guard member returning from deployment and a service member leaving the military:

Chris MacDonald served in Kuwait for a year in the Army National Guard. When he returned to his home in Vancouver in 2008, the only work he could find was as a security guard. He quit and was on unemployment for a while. He has found the skills he learned in the military are hard to transfer into civilian work. MacDonald is pursuing work as a pipe fitter now.
Deidre Connor of Bonney Lake left the Army after nine years in 2005. She got an offer to clean kennels for minimum wage. "That is not what I want to do,” Connor said. “It is not putting my skills to use."

Peter Hirschfeld (Vermont Press Bureau via Rutland Herald) reports on the "66 members of Vermont's Air Ambulance Unit" who will deploy to Iraq in September and are scheduled to serve there until September 2011 and notes that this will be the unit's second deployment to Iraq. Meanwhile Dusty King is serving in Iraq and, Kris Betts (KTEN News, link has text and video)reports, fourth graders in Sherman, Texas are sending his platoon coffee which they would not otherwise have. The teacher of the fourth graders is Gerri King, Dusty's mother, who says, "They feel forgotten over there. He said tell them thank you. It's such a wonderful thing to have someone remember us and send us coffee."

The following community sites updated last night (and we'll include in On The Wilder Side to give them a link):

And again, Iraq Veterans Against the War notes:

Warrior Writers Project is applying for a $25,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh program and we need your vote!

Starting April 1, Pepsi will post all the proposals it has received so the public can vote.

The top ten proposals in the $25,000 range win. Grants will be used to fund three 2010 Warrior Writers retreats for veterans throughout the country, so vote early and vote every day!

If you are really motivated to help, plan an event or house party so you can get people to vote. All you need is a laptop and friends willing to offer their votes.

At every event you attend/organize in April, please make this announcement and set up a laptop to ask folks to vote for us. We can do this!!

(IVAW is the fiscal sponsor of the Warrior Writers Project. Application for this grant does not constitute endorsement of the Pepsi Cola Corporation or any of its products.)

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends