How Are Veterans Faring With Unemployment?

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(Memphis) From Starbucks and Wal-Mart, to the White House...over the past few years, we've seen a big commitment to making sure our nation's bravest men and women are able to make a good living once they take off the uniform.

On this Veterans Day, WREG takes a closer look at those programs and whether they are upholding that promise.

While it certainly could be better, the overall, unemployment rate for veterans has been trending in the right direction.

Experts we spoke with attribute some of that success to companies trying to do a better job hiring veterans and tracking that information, as well as the overall improvement in the economy.

However, the statistics don't tell the whole story, and even as numerous hiring initiatives take place, many veterans are still searching for work.

WREG spoke with two different veterans, from two different service periods, who share the same goal.

"It's very difficult, you've got to find a way to stand out," 55-year-old Frank Scoggins told us.

Standing out was exactly what Scoggins was hoping to do when we met him at a job fair geared toward veterans.

"I was cut back and I even had a job for about two months selling cars, but they let me go and I'm now looking for another job, another career," Scoggins explained.

It won't be the first time the former Marine has re-invented himself.

After getting out of the Corp. in 1980, Scoggins went to school on the GI Bill and earned two, two-year degrees, including one in nuclear engineering technology, which helped him land a job with Georgia Power.

"Going to work for Georgia Power as a vet was a plus, because they too in 1985, they were hiring, looking for veterans."

Scoggins says only this time, two decades of experience in the same industry works against him.

He said, "Online, I have put out resumes, probably 100 to 200 resumes and gotten one call back."

Despite the struggles for thousands like Scoggins, the jobless rate for veterans is lower than the rate for civilians, but not in every category.

For example, the rate in October for veterans who served in the most recent wars was 10 percent; for women, it was even worse at 11.6 percent.

However, that figure is much better than September of 2012 when nearly 20% of women in the same category were without a job.

Twenty-three-year-old Jamila Kibirige was in that number.

"I didn't believe it, I thought people were being lazy or whatever, but honestly, coming back myself personally, it is, it was kind of hard to get a job," Kibirige said.

Her time without a job didn't last long.

Kibirige is one of 20,000 veterans hired by Wal-Mart since May, as part of it's Welcome Home program.

"I went online, looked it up, two weeks later, I was working," she says.

Kibirige knows it hasn't been as easy for others. However, the 4'10", Ugandan-born member of the National Guard has been defying the odds her whole life.

While working at Wal-Mart, she's finishing up college and making plans for her future.

"I think my dreams, my aspirations are higher than average," Kibirige said.

Like Scoggins, who hopes to prove he's anything but.

"I'm willing to do whatever it takes, to do what I have to do."

The Tennessee Department of Labor organized the event where we met Scoggins.

It was the second annual Paychecks for Patriots hiring fair.

In 2012, labor leaders said 92 companies showed up to fill 4,000 positions, but when WREG asked how many veterans were actually hired, they couldn't tell us.

A spokesperson said they planned to do a better job of tracking those figures this year.

WREG also spoke with Nathan Smith of Hire Heroes USA.

We asked Smith about some of the biggest reasons companies aren't hiring veterans.

Smith said while it's difficult to pin down the exact reasons companies might not give veterans a chance, he cited misplaced fears about PTSD or cognitive injuries, the economics of training veterans as well as a lack of hiring managers themselves having a military background.

"When they receive a military resume they often don’t know what they are looking at, even though the veteran candidate may be a top fit for the job," said Smith.

Smith also says it's important for companies that commit to hiring veterans to make sure they have the structure, training and process in place to actually make it a reality.

Other resources:

Joining Forces

Dept. of Labor Veterans' Employment and Training Service