Saturday, January 17, 2015

Why Veterans Cannot Get Jobs

 EJF Newsletter —Why Veterans Can't Get Jobs — Part One

Veterans have always faced some difficulties reintegrating into society after their discharge. That is particularly true if the veteran has been injured or wounded, even invisibly, by combat, training accidents, sexual assault, or the many other hazards of military service.
However, society has compounded the problems for veterans of the perpetual wars of the new millennium in at least three major ways: (1) deceptive advertising, (2) mala prohibita laws like the War on Drugs, and (3) a malfunctioning Veterans Administration.
I have broken these into three sections. I don't have pat answers as to how balance might be restored but these problems don't exist (or are ignored) unless and until they are documented and publicized.
If nothing else perhaps these essays will chart some of the rocks and shoals veterans must avoid if they are to reach safe harbor.

Issues The Equal Justice Foundation Deals With

Part One — Hire a veteran! Not!

January 10, 2015
by Charles E. Corry, Ph.D.
President, Equal Justice Foundation
The endless wars of the 21st Century have produced a multitude of veterans suffering from both visible and invisible wounds. They have not found a return to civilian life an easy transition and a major problem for them is employment, or rather the lack thereof.

Deceptive advertising

Many companies trumpet their intent to hire veterans. Real patriotic! So why is it so difficult for so many veterans to find a job?
The fine print requires a drug test!
It is a rare individual who doesn't suffer some symptoms of stress following a traumatic event, and few events are more traumatic and disturbing than modern combat.
A universal symptom of this stress is sleeplessness and commonly veterans first choice is to self medicate, usually with enough alcohol that they can sleep.
For the lucky ones the symptoms subside but for many, possibly the majority, the symptoms continue and grow into what is now known as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD, see endnote). That outcome is particularly likely if they have done more than one combat tour or suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TBI), the signature wound of the current conflicts. Of course other wounds, amputations, sexual assaults, training or other accidents can cause PTSD as well.
While alcohol is the usual first choice for self medication by a veteran, they are often also given a smorgasbord of pills by the military or the Veterans Administration (VA). But eventually most use marijuana either because a buddy talks to them, they get a DUI, or they have pain from wounds or injuries and hate the opioids and the zombie feeling.
In practice marijuana has proven to be the safest and most effective drug available to help veterans sleep, subdue their irrational anger, help with their pain, and other beneficial results with few side effects.
But many companies purporting to hire veterans will not employ them if they test positive for marijuana.
In 1933 the Twenty First Amendment to the United States Constitution repealing prohibition was, uniquely, ratified by state ratifying conventions. No Congress since has been so foolish as to propose any new Amendment allowing prohibition. And the Tenth Amendment unequivocally states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." The federal government is thus denied the power of prohibition.
As it is clearly within the rights of a state to mandate or legislate, the citizens of Colorado have passed two amendments to their state Constitution regarding marijuana. Passed in 2000, Amendment 20 allows for the medical use of marijuana for a variety of conditions. Then in 2012 Colorado citizens passed Amendment 64 that made the personal use of marijuana legal for persons over 21 years of age. The State of Washington has passed similar legislation. As of 2015 medical marijuana is legal in 23 other states and two more states have made personal use legal. More states are being added to this list yearly.
Employers have a clear interest in employee behavior while on the job but what freemen do on their own time is, for the most part, their business alone. In many professions, e.g., airline pilots, employees may not partake of alcohol for a prescribed number of hours before reporting. Similar rules regarding marijuana would be reasonable and just. But to make a veteran unemployable because the wounds of war require a legal medication some bluenose disapproves of is unconscionable.
Since Colorado citizens clearly have an explicit constitutional right to the use of marijuana, any refusal by an employer to hire veterans using this drug is de facto, and likely de jure discrimination. That is particularly true where the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other mind-altering prescription drugs, e.g., Prozac, are permitted and tolerated when the employee is not working, and oft times when they are on the job.
Why is this blatant employment discrimination tolerated?
If there exists a bona fide need to insure a person is free of any drugs in order to perform their job duties, e.g., flying, surgeons, truck driving, crane and forklift operators, etc., then the employee should be tested for all possible drugs that are known to interfere with job performance, e.g., ethyl alcohol. Then there are prescription drugs such as opioids like Oxycodone, antipsychotics, antidepressants like Prozac, and a host of other prescription drugs that are known to interfere with mental and physical functions. There are also many over the counter drugs such as antihistamines that have the same negative effects on one's ability to operate machinery or perform complex functions. Many of these drugs have a more negative impact on job performance than marijuana.
Equal opportunity demands equal standards.

Giving veteran jobs to foreigners —H1B and other visas

The military trains thousands of computer geeks (programmers, network, security, etc.), mechanics of all types, demolition, construction, contracting, personnel, hydraulics, etc., as well civil, structural, and a dozen other engineering specialties and hundreds of other trades. One would think companies would be lining up to hire these veterans when they are discharged.
So why aren't they?
In addition to the 140,000 permanent immigration visas issued annually for skilled workers Congress, those "friends of veterans," have created a host of other visa categories to flood the country with cheap labor, i.e., not veterans.
In large measure the problems with H1B and similar visas stem from deceptive advertising as well. Generally in order to bring in a foreign worker a company must first advertise the position and then demonstrate that no qualified American can be found to fill the position. That is generally done by briefly advertising the job in an obscure location or deeply buried on the company's web site. And those Americans who somehow manage to find the advertisement and apply either receive no answer, or are told their salary demands are too high, or that they are overqualified, etc. Having "failed" to find an American candidate they then move to bring in a foreign worker under an H1B or similar visa.
There are many variants on this game but the end result is no job for a veteran.
Once again Congress promises one thing to one group (veterans in this case) and delivers the rewards to another.
H1B and similar visas were initially authorized under the Immigration and Nationalization Act of 1965 that was enacted into law in 1968. During the boom in the 1990s businesses screamed to Congress that they couldn't find enough skilled workers, particularly computer programmers although doctors, nurses, engineers of all sorts, mathematicians, mechanics, various scientists, etc. are also admitted on these visas. Although the real problem was businesses were unwilling to pay market wages Congress expanded H1-B visas so that up to 115,000 foreign workers could enter the U.S. every year to take these generally high paying jobs. The cap has since been lowered to a nominal 65,000 per year but there are a number of exceptions, e.g., the masters exemption that admits an additional 20,000 per year for those who presumably hold advanced degrees. These visas are issued for limited time periods, three years initially with a virtually automatic renewal for another three years for good little servants.
Other exemptions exist for Australians (E3 visas) and Canadians and Mexicans (TN1 visas). There are also H2B visas presumptively for "seasonal" work such for hospitality and tourist industries where the yearly quotas are nebulous to non-existent.
Foreign companies can and do bring in many more employees on L1 visas claiming they are senior employees needed for successful operations in the United States. Apparently more than 70,000 of these have been issued in the past decade and evenCongress and the immigration service are becoming suspicious.
Then there are student visas without which the graduate science and engineering programs of many universities could not exist. There are also J1 short-term training and learning visas to further a foreigner's job skills in the USA and then, presumptively, to return to their home country to apply them, in the process exporting American know how and jobs.
Remember that all these are in addition to the 140,000 permanent immigration visas issued each year.
Critics note that the benefits to U.S. tech firms are numerous and campaign donations to Congress are generous. First, from personal observation, H1B workers are usually paid much lower wages than U.S. citizens. Typically they cannot ask for a raise during their tenure and are often asked to work unreimbursed overtime. If they are fired they lose their visa and they cannot leave to go to another employer. Most are not paid benefits and they cannot complain on pain of being fired. Note that such conditions meet the definition of indentured servitude, which was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865. Nonetheless, U.S. firms have, with the blessing($) of Congress discovered the ultimate employee.
ABC News estimates that there were a half million foreigners in the United States on H1B visas in 2010. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Of course some move to obtain a green card and become permanent residents and eventually citizens. But many simply stay on after their visas expire or they graduate from college. And virtually no effort is made to find and deport them, often even if they commit crimes. While the exact number of foreigners who have overstayed their visas is unknown, an article in the April 7, 2013, Wall Street Journal suggests that about 40% of 11 million undocumented workers arrived legally but simply stayed on. That would put a low estimate of 4.4 million. Since many estimates suggest there are currently ~22 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. a value closer to 9 million might be more accurate.
But even if the H-1B worker doesn't stay in the U.S. they learn the job and then rotate back to the home country and take the work with them along with American know how and jobs.
Veterans are left with whatever scraps of jobs remain.
2007 study by the Urban Institute concluded that America was producing plenty of students with majors in science, technology, engineering, and math (the STEM professions)—many more than necessary to fill entry-level jobs.
As quoted by Mother Jones, Norman Matloff, a computer science professor at the University of California-Davis, sees this changing as H-1B workers cause Americans to major in more-lucrative fields such as law and business. "In terms of the number of people with graduate degrees in STEM," he says, "H-1B is the problem, not the solution."
Impact of these visas is particularly hard on older veterans or those who have made a career of the military. Older workers are virtually always more expensive than younger ones or students just out of college.
And if a company can get a foreign worker for even less than that...

Part Two — And justice for none

Part two covers the impact of an overcriminalized justice system on veterans

Part Three — Dying to get an appointment with the VA

Part three will look at some of the problems veterans encounter with the Veterans Administration and why this anchor is dragging.


Summary of symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) observed in local veterans:

• Sleeplessness (probably the most common and the first thing one notices);
• Dissociation from actual events and no memory of them is diagnostic;
• Nightmares often accompanied by kicking, fighting, or choking a partner in one's sleep and are much more persistent and disturbing than what Grossman and Christensen (2007, 2nd Ed., p. 156-157) call the Universal Warrior Nightmare;
• Impotence in males;
• Irrational anger or irritability accompanied by emotional or violent outbursts;
• Anxiety and a need for unconditional control of almost every situation in order to feel safe;
• Panic attacks and hyperventilating (veterans are known to put on their body armor in such cases);
• Social withdrawal and fear of crowded places (often will not leave house or go shopping until early morning hours);
• Difficulty concentrating, focusing, or remembering (short-term memory loss);
• Hypervigilance often expressed as a fear of crowds and a need to do a reconnaissance before entering an area or building, e.g. WalMart;
• Flashbacks to the event(s); and
• An exaggerated and often violent startle response.
For a comprehensive diagnostic description of post traumatic stress disorder see the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5 pages 271-280.
To officially fall within the diagnostic guidelines the symptoms must last for at least a month.

About the author

He has been doing research on domestic violence, particularly abused men, since 1997.
In 2008 he and former EJF Director Robert Alvarez began pushing for a veteran court in Colorado Springs. That court is now up and research continues on veteran arrests.
After service with 1 st Marines Dr. Corry became involved with the early space program in 1960, doing preflight testing and failure analysis on Atlas and Centaur missiles, including all the Project Mercury birds. In 1965 he switched to oceanography and did research at both Scripps Institution in San Diego and Woods Hole Oceanographic on Cape Cod. He has also taught geology and geophysics at two universities and worked as a research manager for a Fortune 500 company.
Among other pursuits he has climbed high mountains, been shipwrecked and marooned on an unexplored desert island, ridden horseback through Utah, Arizona, and Colorado, and enjoyed many other adventures during his long career.
Presently Dr. Corry is president and founding director of the Equal Justice Foundation.

Issues The Equal Justice Foundation Deals With