Despite Reports, Unemployment Is Still A Major Issue For Veterans

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retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Thomas Gipson, of Atlanta, right, has his resume looked over by Ralph Brown, a management and program analyst with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a job fair for veterans at the VFW Post 2681.
AP photo by David Goldman

Recently, The Los Angeles Times published an article by Alan Zarembo that stated high veteran unemployment appears to be a thing of the past. This is patently untrue both nationally and in the Los Angeles area. As the executive director of the Call of Duty Endowment, a nonprofit that has funded the placement of over 17,400 veterans into high-quality jobs, I work daily with organizations in the veteran employment space. We don’t see their unemployment waning.


In fact, 30% of our partners report that they have waitlists for their services, even in the face of expanding capabilities.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly unemployment numbers that Zarembo cites simply don't reflect reality. Its methodology for obtaining data on veterans is deeply flawed, as it doesn’t count people who have not looked for a job in the last four weeks or people who work part time and are underemployed.

Jim Clifton, the CEO of Gallup, calls this “the Big Lie,” and he’s right — we have a bigger unemployment problem than the government realizes, and the situation with veterans is even worse. As Clifton pointed out, if a person accepted $20 in the last week for mowing someone’s lawn, the government considers them employed. I think we can all agree that no one can live on $20 per week.

The way the Bureau of Labor Statistics attempts to describe veterans within their statistics is also problematic. The monthly numbers they report are highly erratic and not designed to representatively sample the veteran population. Nor are they seasonally adjusted, which calls into question their validity.  Even the Bureau’s much ballyhooed annual veteran’s unemployment report — published in March each year and containing more in-depth questions of the vets they capture — is also not designed from the ground up to sample a representative veteran population.

What I can say with confidence is, in surveying the nonprofits we fund who served over 20,000 veterans this year, is that one-third had a waiting list for their services despite recent growth in capacity.  Additionally, eight of the nine organizations have seen an increase in demand for their services this year. Keep in mind that this is only nine nonprofits and only counts those veterans walking in the door asking for help. Moreover, these nine non-profits are a small fraction of the over 26,000 non-profits that GuideStar.org says are serving U.S. veteran populations.

Several local studies show an even more challenging picture. The Center for a New American Security’s study from November shows a 30% unemployment rate among veterans in Western Pennsylvania — a region that contains 1% of the nation’s vets. Furthermore, last year’s LA County Veterans Study by the University of Southern California showed that almost 80% of veterans coming to Los Angeles County — the largest concentration of vets in the nation — went there jobless.

The bottom line is veteran unemployment is a huge national challenge, and this is not the time to declare victory. I hope the next story The Los Angeles Times writes on veteran unemployment more accurately reflects the reality on the ground for our veterans.

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Marine Maj. Jose J. Anzaldua Jr. spent more than three years during the height of the Vietnam War. Now, more than 45 years after his release, Sig Sauer is paying tribute to his service with a special gift.

Sig Sauer on Friday unveiled a unique 1911 pistol engraved with Anzaldua's name, the details of his imprisonment in Vietnam, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" accompanied by the POW-MIA flag on the grip to commemorate POW-MIA Recognition Day.

The gunmaker also released a short documentary entitled "Once A Marine, Always A Marine" — a fitting title given Anzaldua's courageous actions in the line of duty

Marine Maj. Jose Anzaldua's commemorative 1911 pistol

(Sig Sauer)

Born in Texas in 1950, Anzaldua enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam as an intelligence scout assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

On Jan. 23, 1970, he was captured during a foot patrol and spent 1,160 days in captivity in various locations across North Vietnam — including he infamous Hỏa Lò Prison known among American POWs as the "Hanoi Hilton" — before he was freed during Operation Homecoming on March 27, 1973.

Anzaldua may have been a prisoner, but he never stopped fighting. After his release, he received two Bronze Stars with combat "V" valor devices and a Prisoner of War Medal for displaying "extraordinary leadership and devotion to his companions" during his time in captivity. From one of his Bronze Star citations:

Using his knowledge of the Vietnamese language, he was diligent, resourceful, and invaluable as a collector of intelligence information for the senior officer interned in the prison camp.

In addition, while performing as interpreter for other United States prisoners making known their needs to their captors, [Anzaldua] regularly, at the grave risk of sever retaliation to himself, delivered and received messages for the senior officer.

On one occasion, when detected, he refused to implicate any of his fellow prisoners, even though severe punitive action was expected.

Anzaldua also received a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroism in December 1969, when he entered the flaming wreckage of a U.S. helicopter that crashed nearr his battalion command post in the country's Quang Nam Province and rescued the crew chief and a Vietnamese civilian "although painfully burned himself," according to his citation.

After a brief stay at Camp Pendleton following his 1973 release, Anzaldua attended Officer Candidate School at MCB Quantico, Virginia, earning his commission in 1974. He retired from the Corps in 1992 after 24 years of service.

Sig Sauer presented the commemorative 1911 pistol to Anzaldua in a private ceremony at the gunmaker's headquarters in Newington, New Hampshire. The pistol's unique features include:

  • 1911 Pistol: the 1911 pistol was carried by U.S. forces throughout the Vietnam War, and by Major Anzaldua throughout his service. The commemorative 1911 POW pistol features a high-polish DLC finish on both the frame and slide, and is chambered in.45 AUTO with an SAO trigger. All pistol engravings are done in 24k gold;
  • Right Slide Engraving: the Prisoner of War ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor and "Major Jose Anzaldua" engravings;
  • Top Slide Engraving: engraved oak leaf insignia representing the Major's rank at the time of retirement and a pair of dog tags inscribed with the date, latitude and longitude of the location where Major Anzaldua was taken as a prisoner, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" taken from the POW-MIA flag;
  • Left Side Engraving: the Vietnam War service ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor engraving;
  • Pistol Grips: anodized aluminum grips with POW-MIA flag.

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