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
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.
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.
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
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
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
But many companies
purporting to hire veterans will not employ them if they test positive for
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
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 (note: the original
page for this reference is now down. I have substituted another page for
continuity) 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 dot.com
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 even Congress
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.
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
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
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.
A 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
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;
To officially fall within
the diagnostic guidelines the symptoms must last for at least a month.
About the author
Dr. Corry is a Senior Fellow of the
Geological Society of America and an internationally-known earth scientist
whose biography has appeared in Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in America,
Who's Who in Science and Engineering, among others, for sixteen consecutive
He has been doing
research on domestic violence, particularly abused men, since 1997.
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
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.